‘Astronomical numbers:’ Horry County first responders dispatched to record-breaking number of calls

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CONWAY, S.C. (WBTW) – Horry County Fire Rescue crews responded to a record-breaking number of calls in 2020 and they broke call records the first two months of 2021.

Tony Casey, spokesman for HCFR, says though the pandemic slowed things down, the department still responded to more than 63,000 calls last year. 

“Had COVID not happened, we probably would have run an absurd record number of calls,” he said. 

Fast forward to January 2021 and HCFR responded to 12% more calls than the same time last year. “We are seeing some astronomical numbers every day, every week, every month.”

In Myrtle Beach, the fire department responded to fewer calls in 2020, though. Deputy fire marshal and spokesman for the department, Captain Jonathan Evans, attributes that to less tourism.

“Myrtle Beach as a whole is a very tourism-driven area,” Captain Evans said. “We didn’t have as many tourist people coming in because of the pandemic, so it just wasn’t as busy for us. For that reason, the calls during the summertime weren’t as much.”

Despite the pandemic slowing their 2020 call volume, MBFD is starting to see numbers that break records set back in 2017. Myrtle Beach firefighters have already responded to more calls this month than the entire month of April in 2020.

“Given what we’ve seen so far with spring break, I think this is going to be a very busy year for us,” Evans said.

For HCFR, leaders hope to take part in the SAFER Grant again this year. Something that allowed the department to hire 30 additional firefighters last year.

HCFR has also requested some additional money in the County budget for more staffing.“Horry County Fire Rescue grows with the County that it’s in,” Casey said. “That includes staff, it includes the resources we need to fight all these fires and respond to all these EMS calls, so we’re prepared for that.”

HCFR and MBFD leaders say though the number of calls is on track to break records, their departments are prepared.

“We have as many people working in January as we do in July,” Captain Evans said. “In past years we have put an extra ambulance in or an extra unit in because we saw the need to fulfill some of those calls, but we also rely on the County to help with some of those things and they put extra units in as well.”

“We’re ready to handle how busy it’s going to be, but we know this year is going to be busier than it ever was before,” Casey said.

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