MYRTLE BEACH — Firefighters have the often thankless task of protecting life and property, answering without hesitation when called upon to serve those in need.
Thats no different when the needy are their own, or where they are from.
About 200 cyclists roared Sunday through Conway and Myrtle Beach on their way to Calli Bakers Firehouse Bar & Grill to raise money for Jerry Meares and Ashleigh Wilson, members of Fair Bluff (N.C.) Fire and Rescue who were injured May 12 while responding to the Legends II fire in Carolina Forest.
Wilson and Meares, part of a two-truck team responding to a call for aid from Horry Fire and Rescue, were hurt when their truck blew a tire and flipped on U.S. 501 in Carolina Forest. Meares was pinned beneath the truck and suffered a severe laceration to his shoulder and a broken neck. Wilson, despite wearing a seat belt, was thrown from the truck and suffered an injury to her head that requires her to undergo plastic surgery in Columbia once every three weeks for the next two or three years.
There are politician lines, but no lines when it comes to the fire service, said Calli Bakers owner and retired Horry Fire and Rescue firefighter Heath Scurfield. It doesnt matter where were from, we all go and help one another. They were working to help Horry County residents on (U.S.) 501.
These people are underpaid, overworked and understaffed ... and when theyre hurt, its kinda like they are forgotten. We need to remind everybody that these guys do a lot for them.
Thats why Scurfield had no hesitation when asked to take part in Sundays event, which originated at Fair Bluff Fire and Rescue and made a stop in Conway at the Horry County Fire and Rescue before getting to Calli Bakers. Ride participants were treated to hot dogs and other fare outside the eatery, where auctions and raffles also helped raise money.
Inside the restaurant, the discount that firefighters always receive on food was tallied up to be deposited into a fund that will help sustain Wilson and Meares, who will each be out of their full-time jobs from two to three years, if not longer, according to Lt. Ken Elliott with Fair Bluff Fire and Rescue.
The prognosis is fair to good for both of them, but theyre not promising whether (Meares) will come back, Elliott said. Its both a psychological deal struggling with the accident itself and a physical deal with their injuries.
Although both will receive workers compensation, that is only two-thirds of their salaries, and both also have families. Simple tasks such as going to the grocery store are also compounded, as Meares is not allowed to drive his doctors dont want him to do much of anything and Wilson has only been cleared to drive in a limited capacity, always near her home.
Elliott plans for this to be one event of many over the next few years to help fund a savings account to help his comrades through difficult and troubling times. Hes been impressed with the support received already, which began almost immediately following the accident when Horry County Fire and Rescues Justin Gibbons arranged accommodations for Meares family while he was in the hospital here.
Its a brotherhood and when that brotherhood pulls together it doesnt matter where it is, were here for each other.
Contributions to the savings account can be mailed to: Injured Firefighters or Jerry and Ashleigh, Fair Bluff Fire and Rescue, 653 Railroad St., Fair Bluff, NC 28439. They request you include a return address, because Meares and Wilson plan to thank each donor individually.
Reach TODD GARVIN at 626-0307.