Myrtle Beach firefighters protected by new, safer equipment

Grand Strand

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C (WBTW) — New equipment at the Myrtle Beach Fire Department will have first responders more protected as they prepare for a busy holiday season.

The city’s million-dollar cancer-free initiative is nearly complete.

Recruitment and retention is an issue that many emergency departments continue to face. However, officials hope more cancer-preventing equipment will keep new hires in the Myrtle Beach area.

“I am blessed where I’m protected now,” said Jacqueline Brengle, one of eight women in the MBFD. She started about four years ago.

“It’s definitely nice to come onto the career and have the equipment because some of the guys who have been online – they have already been exposed to cancer,” Brengle said.

Fire Chief Tom Gwyer said thyroid cancer is the leading cause of death for firefighters. He said six of his crew members have been diagnosed with cancer from 2014 to 2020. The new bunker gear comes with encapsulating layers that protect the skin from dangerous cancer-causing chemicals.

“This tight waist strap, it does not move on me,” Bungle said.” So the jacket may move, but this right here keeps me protected and safe.”

Sticking with the old gear, Brengle said would have caused more health issues down the road.

“When I first got online this was the hood that was presented to me,” she said. “It’s about as thick as a sock. “As you can see this one is much longer, much thicker. It has insulation here.”

Crews are also being trained to use new air packs that are made for all body types. They come with a built-in Bluetooth, washable straps and adjustable lumbar support.

The gear passed a series of wear-tests best fit for the department. Officials tell News13, the Myrtle Beach Fire Department is the first in the state to receive this type of new gear.

It’s a critical investment that Capt. Jonathan Evans hopes will keep firefighters here in Myrtle Beach.

“I believe that our department, this is just going to help draw people here more,” Evans said. “We had over 500 applications with this last hiring process, and we have a great group of candidates who are going to be starting in December.”

Officials hope to have all frontline firefighters assigned with the new gear by January.

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