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Here's what the county is doing to help out firefighters

To address pay and staffing issues within Horry County fire, county staff at council Chair Mark Lazarus's direction have laid out a plan to give firefighters pay raises and reduce overtime.

Firefighters could receive a 3 percent pay raise along with the average 3 percent merit-based pay raise for all employees for a total pay raise of 6 percent under the proposed budget for the next fiscal year.

Without the pay raise, Horry County firefighters earn $34,456 to $51,686 for both firefighter EMTS and firefighter paramedics, according to county spokesperson Kelly Moore.

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In Myrtle Beach, the minimum salary starts at $38,640 for just firefighters, according to a pay schedule. Firefighter paramedics in Myrtle Beach make at least $43,922 and can earn up to $68,319.

In an effort to reduce overtime, the department is also taking paramedics out of stations that already have multiple paramedics in a single station and moving them to fill vacancies, said Horry County Fire Rescue spokesperson Mark Nugent.

"Right now in nine places you could have a paramedic on the engine and on the medic unit," Nugent said. "Everywhere there’s a medic unit we’ll pull that paramedic and put him on that vacant spot."

The department is also moving paramedics to fire engines and freeing up ambulances staffed with only EMTs to respond to non-life-threatening medical calls, said Nugent. He said that would free up the paramedics to respond only to life-threatening calls.

According to a county presentation, the department has 16 vacant firefighter EMT positions, and eight vacant firefighter paramedic positions, with another five paramedics who are in training or on leave. Those five don't count as vacant positions, but are not actively working in the fire station.

The vacancies have caused increases in overtime, and the fire department has been using part-time paramedics to fill in overtime slots before firefighters are required to work mandatory overtime, Nugent said.

Lazarus said he hopes the plan will let the department recruit more firefighters and retain the ones it has.

"It will help us to retain employees and gain employees," said Lazarus.

Christian Boschult, 843-626-0218, @TSN_Christian

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