CONWAY, S.C. (WMBF) - Horry County Fire Rescue welcomed 43 new firefighters and EMTs Friday night, making it the largest class in South Carolina history.
To put it into perspective, HCFR usually graduates around 18-20 people in a class.
“We’re really looking forward to serving our community and putting our new skills to the test,” said graduate Jeremy Spickler.
Spickler has spent the past 24 weeks of training to become an EMT and also became the valedictorian of the class.
“Really exciting, a lot of hard work went into it, a lot of studying, and a big thanks to my family for putting up with all those weeks,” said Spickler.
The reason this class is more than twice the size of a standard class is because a $3.6 million FEMA grant that was awarded to HCFR last year helped to 30 new positions in the department.
HCFR Chief Joseph Tanner told the Horry County Council that the department needed the new positions because they received more than 50,000 calls in 2019.
“With the increase of calls, it’s important to get that extra staff added in, and we’re really looking forward to stepping in to fill that need,” said Spickler.
Not only was the graduation class exceptionally large, but it was also different because of the coronavirus.
Usually the recruits whole family joins them for the pinning ceremony, but because of safety concerns, each new firefighter only had one pinner.
The virus also impacted their training.
“Whenever you’re crawling through a 16-inch tube or a 20-inch tube with your team to get through to the other side, that can be tricky, but our fire gear actually has some good, protective barriers,” said Spickler.
Spickler is ready to start his career, in a time where Horry County is really counting on its first responders.
“It’s a little different, but not different for us at this point because it’s what we’re used to training through it,” said Spickler.
HCFR will still have 12 open positions even with these 43 new firefighters. They are planning on starting another course when that number gets up to 18.