New Horry County fire chief to be announced Tuesday

bdickerson@thesunnews.comOctober 11, 2012 

— The three candidates still in the running to be Horry County’s next fire chief will have their final interviews Friday and the new chief should be announced at Tuesday’s County Council meeting.

That was the update public safety director Paul Whitten gave at the start of Thursday’s Horry County Public Safety Committee meeting.

The three finalists are: H.P. “Butch” Womack, fire chief for the city of Easley, S.C.; James Crawford, assistant fire chief for Midway Fire Rescue in Pawleys Island; and Frederick Crosby, chief of fire and EMS for Hanover County, Va.

The man who ultimately is offered the job will take over from interim Chief Kenneth Bean, who has filled that role since April 13, after former chief Garry Alderman announced his request for reassignment because of personal reasons.

After the update on the fire chief search, the committee moved on to the topic of green lasers.

The council was set to have first reading Oct. 2 of a proposed ordinance regulating the lasers in Horry County. That vote was deferred so the issue could be taken up by state officials.

Whitten said he’s talked to representatives Liston Barfield and Alan Clemmons about the issue. Barfield, he added, would be provided with documentation and he’ll prefile with the state legislature.

“They’re very supportive. The state can do a lot more,” Whitten said.

The proposed county ordinance came after several incidents in which green lasers were pointed at helicopters flown by the U.S. Coast Guard during search and rescue missions on the Grand Strand, most recently in Garden City Beach the first week of August.

In August, Cmdr. Gregory Fuller, commanding officer at Air Station Savannah, which provides air support for the Grand Strand, said the Coast Guard may not help with search efforts on the Grand Strand because their rescuers’ safety is in jeopardy.

Committee member Al Allen said he rode down the beach recently and saw lots of beach shops advertising green lasers. He bought one just to see what one was like, paying $12 for the device, he added.

“That’s a pretty stout beam,” Allen said as he shined the laser around the County Council conference room.

A pilot himself, Allen said he’s been personally been hit by a green laser while landing a plane. When the beam hit the glass windshield, Allen described it as like being in a green haze.

That haze, he added, is very disorienting and happens during the most important part of the flight.

“It is a problem, it is a dangerous thing and it needs to be dealt with,” Allen said.

Contact reporter BRAD DICKERSON at 626-0301.

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