$3.6 million grant could add 30 firefighters to Horry County if council approves

Updated: Oct. 10, 2019 at 11:37 PM EDT
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HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - The last thing someone wants to hear is there aren’t enough firefighters to handle the number of emergencies in the area, especially if it’s a life or death situation.

It’s a situation that Horry County leaders are trying to make sure doesn’t happen.

There are 40 fire stations, just over 500 firefighters, some of which are volunteers, and 333,000 plus people within the 1,134 square miles making up the largest county east of the Mississippi. Horry County.

“So far this year we’ve responded to 49,400 calls as of today. So you can see the call volume is exploding around here,” Horry County Fire Rescue Chief Joseph Tanner said at the most recent public safety meeting.

“With the same amount of crews and the same issues and with no changes yet?” a council member asked.

“Correct,” Tanner replied.

After making headlines over the last several years regarding retention rates, understaffing and salaries, the department decided to tackle the issue by applying for what’s called a SAFER Grant through FEMA.

[Horry County Fire Rescue takes steps to address employee issues, concerns]

The hope is to use the $3.6 million grant to hire an additional 30 firefighters.

“This would give us people assigned to each apparatus throughout the county and that’s a big goal that we’ve had," Horry County Fire Rescue spokesperson Tony Casey said.

Now it’s in the hands of Horry County councilmembers whether the grant is accepted or not, because the grant itself is not enough to fund the 30 firefighters being hired.

“This would get us started moving in the right direction but then we would absorb the costs when the grant runs out,” Casey said.

Here’s the money breakdown:

  • The average salary is $36,200 for a firefighter/EMT starting. Times that by 3 years and 30 firefighters, you have over $3,258,000.
  • The average cost to train a firefighter is $25,000. Times that by 30, you have 750,000.
  • Bringing the total to over $4,008,000
  • Now, add on the cost of equipment for the 30 firefighters, which HCFR said will be around $1 million, and you have between $5 and $6 million worth of costs to hire 30 firefighters to work three years.

So the county would have to invest around $2 million.

“We would be able to cover more of the county efficiently and we would have to use our equipment less because we would have more people to move around the county. So, this would extend the lifetime of our equipment and would save our taxpayers money over time," Casey said.

The county council’s expected to decide on whether or not to accept this grant at Tuesday night’s council meeting.

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