HORRY CO., SC (WBTW)- A grant to help Horry County Fire Rescue recruit volunteer firefighter expires soon. Back in May, the department got an extension on its nearly million dollar “Safer” grant until the end of December.
Horry County Fire Rescue said it had more than 300 applicants, and gained 157 new volunteer firefighters. While the grant is winding down, their recruiting efforts are not.
The nearly million dollar “SAFER” grant from FEMA paid for things like billboard and newspaper ads, radio commercials, and social media ads to attract new volunteers to the department.
The grant expires on December 31st, but the department said it will still keep the momentum going.
“We have the trailers, we have the Ipads, we have the multi-media monitors. Those things are going to assist us with the recruitment events that we do moving forward,” said Batallion Chief Chris Nash with HCFR.
The department said the grant helped them recruit retired firefighters and police officers who have moved to the area, and now they have their sights on millennials.
“We really want to get into the schools, into the colleges, in the job fairs. We want to be able to not just do it in this region, but also out in other regions as well across the state,” said Nash.
The department said nationwide, there’s been a decline in volunteer fire service over the years. They currently have 376 volunteer fire fighters, and the need is there. In 2017, they responded to more than 61,000 calls for service, and they say that number goes up every year.
“69 percent of America’s fire service is made up of volunteer firefighters and 92 percent of the departments in this country rely on those firefighters in some fashion,” said Nash.
Right now, some volunteers are going through recruit school and will be on the streets in February. The department said they hope to retain them through education and training opportunities.
“If you become a volunteer firefighter here you have the ability to promote and go through the ranks as an officer and learn the leadership roles that are associated with that,” said Nash.
Right now, all of the agency’s career firefighter positions are full, but they said they can always use more volunteers.