Myrtle Beach is hosting the South Carolina Firefighters Conference this weekend. The conference kicked off last night and will extend through Saturday and will include both business and pleasure. New officers will be elected on Friday and sworn in on Saturday. There will also be competitions between departments from across the state in both an Automobile Extrication Competition and a Firefighter Combat Challenge. The competitions will be held at Broadway at the Beach. Myrtle Beach Assistant Fire Chief Daniel Cimini explains these competitions.
“Thursday and Friday they have the Challenge where you’ll have Extrication Competition,” said Cimini. “It puts teams against each other in various modes of vehicle extrication using equipment and tools available to them in their departments. Then on Friday afternoon, we’re having what they call Combat Challenge which is firefighters that compete in teams against each other–also single entries–in hoisting lines, pulling mannequins and so forth.”
Instructors from around the country will teach hot classes to attendees and there will be a Memorial Service for fallen firefighters over the past year.
It’s been a tough year for firefighters because, as the economy goes, so does their departments. “It’s like everyone else, economic times puts a lot of pressure on the fire service because a lot of our operating money comes from tax dollars and business licenses and so forth and all departments are the same. ” he said.
“As business declines of course revenue declines in the municipality and the municipality has to take cuts. Unfortunately, the fire departments and the police departments are usually the first places where they’re chopped.”
Cimini says a struggling economy often means more work for firefighters. According to him, “It seems that with the economy, as people get less and less income, we have frequency of fire and medical calls. Motor vehicle accidents for some reason seem to climb.
“We have a lot of people now that used to travel to go to vacation now vacation in the area where they live. So we see an increase in our crowdedness in our beaches of locals [sic].”
Cimini also says that since 9-11, firefighters have become an afterthought. “I think, nationally, it takes a big catastrophe or something of major proportion before money is thrown at us.
“For years, we would ask for more people or this and that, and 9-11 come(s) along and suddenly the fire service is in the spotlight for a few years. And then like everything else, you forget about it and it goes away.”