New Horry fire chief tells committee volunteerism is increasing

bdickerson@thesunnews.comJanuary 17, 2013 

— New Horry County Fire Rescue Chief Fred Crosby said one of the priorities County Council members expressed to him about was increasing volunteerism within the department, an area where there has been growth recently.

Crosby, in his first appearance before the Horry County Public Safety Committee on Thursday, said volunteerism is up 37 percent over the last 30 days.

Over the past 30 days, the fire rescue department has 30 new applications pending, Crosby told committee members. Twelve volunteers will graduate from the fire academy on Jan. 25, and another 30 are now in the academy.

Additionally, 10 new interior qualified firefighters who had previous training also have been in training, Crosby added.

“You’re off and running,” said committee chairman Brent Schulz.

Crosby has been acting fire chief for Horry County Fire Rescue for the past six weeks. To increase volunteerism, he’s opened up volunteer opportunities to extend to anyone with a set of skills the fire department could use.

That basically means looking at volunteers who can do other duties that don’t include running into a burning building.

“If you can just drive, that’s fine,” Crosby said.

Increasing volunteerism has been an on-going issue for the department, which has around 300 career firefighters and 200 volunteers.

Large amounts of training have been one of the complaints from officials as to why they’ve had a hard time recruiting volunteers.

Crosby said all classroom work can now be done online, as opposed to driving to a training facility.

While one avenue of public safety is looking to increase volunteerism, the department as a whole is looking to decrease the number of false alarm calls it responds to.

Public safety director Paul Whitten said false alarms is the No. 1 call for service the department receives.

The department has instituted a false alarm reduction program, where a person or company would receive a written notice the first two times an alarm was activated without there being an emergency.

On the third false alarm, a fine of $150 would be implemented, Whitten said. However, a waiver on the fine would be granted if evidence of repair is presented.

Whitten did tell the committee some people have had more than 100 false alarms in a year.

“We’re not going to cut them some slack,” he said.

Contact BRAD DICKERSON at 626-0301 or follow him at Twitter.com/TSN_bdickerson.

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