MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (AP) - Fire department staff numbers have
been boosted to 126 after 27 recruits graduated last month from the
largest class to go through the Myrtle Beach Fire Academy.
The graduates will help staff a new $1.6 million,
9,800-square-foot station due to open later this month. The new
staff includes retirees from other professions and will help cover
the rapidly growing tourist town.
The new class of firefighters include a retired New York Police
Department homicide sergeant, a software programmer, a former
semiprofessional hockey player, a chef and a former forestry
firefighter and military police officer who served in Kosovo and
Iraq.
Todd Cartner of Horry County Fire Rescue said the beach offers
an attractive destination for work or play. Horry County has 272
paid full-time staff and 230 volunteers in 38 stations.
Surfside Beach Department of Public Safety Chief Robert
"Butch" Parker said many of his department's firefighters who are
drawn to the area also are retired from other occupations.
"I think everyone wants to come to the beach because it's a
good place to be," Parker said.
From February to June, recruits studied topics including
hazardous materials, rope rescue and vehicle extrication.
Richard La Pera, 40, found the training intense despite his 20
years as a New York police officer and volunteer firefighter.
"I learned more in three months than I did in 15 to 20 years as
a volunteer," said La Pera, a Myrtle Beach Station 1 firefighter.
"They gave you training, but it wasn't as detailed as what we were
taught."
Some stations even supplement required training with its own
instruction, as Capt. Ken Frye of North Myrtle Beach Fire and
Rescue does with his 36-member department.
The Horry County and Myrtle Beach fire departments do extensive
in-house training and allow recruits from other departments into
training sessions if space is available.
Lt. Dan Walker, Myrtle Beach Fire Department spokesman, said the
training arrangement helps build relationships among departments
that have mutual-aid agreements.
"We benefit if firefighters in our area are trained to a higher
level because they can help us on a major call," Walker said.

---
Information from: The Sun News,
http://www.myrtlebeachonline.com/

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)