Myrtle Beach firefighters adapt to reopening during coronavirus pandemic

Grand Strand

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – Firefighters are trying to adapt their jobs to the coronavirus pandemic.

Some services haven’t stopped during the pandemic, so firefighters have to be prepared for the dangers they see, but also the ones they can’t.

“The teachers and stuff have been so-called working from home and isolating,” said Seth Holzopfel, president of International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) chapter 4614. “Our first responders have not. We’re in the streets, working.”

Holzopfel says none of the 122 firefighters in IAFF 4614 have tested positive for the coronavirus, but they’re still taking extra cleaning precautions and using more personal protective equipment (PPE).

“I’ve had no issues or complaints that they haven’t had the PPE to do their jobs,” Holzopfel said. “I give the fire department administration a little bit of kudos.”

The pandemic has changed from the days of stay-at-home orders and the Myrtle Beach Fire Department is preparing for the tourists that come to the city. Holzopfel says MBFD has applied for an $80,000 federal grant for more PPE.

That could help at delayed large events later this year like Carolina Country Music Fest and the bike weeks.

“We are a tourist destination and, as we see from the last weeks, people are coming,” said Holzopfel. “I’m happy that people are coming because my firefighters’ pay is based off of business licenses for the city.”

Holzopfel also says the union is looking to get antibody tests for firefighters so they can know if they’ve been exposed.

“In the future, if they link COVID-19 with some horrible disease if you had it, then we can go back, link that to that and we can get the proper care for our members,” he said.

IAFF is also pushing for a bill in Columbia to provide benefits or workers compensation to first responders exposed to COVID-19. In April, News13 told you how Rep. Russell Fry, R-Surfside Beach, is advocating for it.

That bill was sent to the House judiciary committee earlier this month.

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