Horry County Fire Rescue moves equipment for wildfire coverage

Horry County Fire Rescue has moved some of its equipment recently to better prepare for fighting wildfires.

Tim Rainbolt, a wildfire specialist with Horry County Fire Rescue, said the change is strategic and spreads the agency’s gear, such as an urban interface truck, to four stations across the county. It should allow the department to get the proper equipment to wildfire scenes more rapidly, he said.

Station 45 on International Drive in Carolina Forest is one of four stations in the county outfitted with a truck specifically designed for battling wildfires. Previously, the truck was located at a station near the intersection of S.C. 22 and S.C. 319.

Fred DeAngelis, Capt. of Station 45, said that means it could take about 30 minutes for that truck to arrive on a scene near International Drive if it were needed.

Moving the equipment, DeAngelis said, will save time for firefighters. He said unless firefighters here know the size of the blaze the smaller brush truck likely would be dispatched first, and the larger truck called if needed.

Rainbolt said the firefighters at Station 45, which is an all volunteer station, already can use the larger urban interface truck, but are undergoing training that will continue for about two months.

“It’s good training, especially for people like myself that came from areas that didn’t have a lot of brush fires,” DeAngelis said.

The firefighters training includes learning how to use a continuous hose line system that works like a series of sprinklers and can hook up to either a truck or fire hydrant.

Rainbolt said that system came into use after learning lessons from fires like the Highway 31 fire that spread over 19,130 acres, damaged 97 homes and destroyed 76 homes estimated to be worth $25 million, according to the S.C. Forestry Commission. The state’s largest fire on record burned 30,000 acres in the same area in April 1976 but is not considered the most destructive because homes were not lost.

Rainbolt said he saw some homes escape severe damage after leaving sprinkler systems on before the neighborhood was evacuated. The technique firefighters are using works similarly, as it can be left behind with water still running if crews must retreat from a blaze.

Rainbolt said the agency is planning to get three more trucks designed for battling wildfires in the next five years. Each likely will cost about $150,000.