MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – The Myrtle Beach Fire Department’s water rescue team received a new certification as an “Aquatic Rescue Team.”
Only three other departments on the east cost have earned this certification from the U.S. Lifesaving Association.
The team is compromised of 22 people and they earn the certification by going through a rigorous 80+ hour training program where they have to meet certain swimming, diving and treading water qualifications.
Brian Wastler is a member of the water rescue team and says because of their swimming and medical backgrounds, this certification was the natural thing to do.
“Our philosophy here in the city is ‘First in Service’ and to be able to provide another opportunity of safety for our locals as well as our vacationers here, for me personally, it’s just something we’re built to do,” added Wastler.
And the team has been busy this summer. Just on the Fourth of July, over a dozen water rescues were reported.
Michael Jarest, another member of the team, said when they first get the call of a distressed swimmer, they are ready.
“We’re going to send at least two rescue swimmers,” said Jarest, in addition to a safety, battalion chief and the closest support vehicle.
Jarest says it is crucial that they get information as soon as possible so they know the location of the swimmer. But even that information can sometimes lead them in the wrong direction.
“Even though someone goes down somewhere, the current is moving and is taking them somewhere else,” added Jarest. “The ocean is unpredictable.”
Unfortunately, sometimes they have to completely call off the search.
“It’s hard to swallow the fact that we’re going to have to call off the search or that it was unsuccessful,” said Jarest.
Both Jarest and Wastler want the public to know that when they receive a distressed swimmer call, they are going to do everything they can to make it a successful rescue.
Jarest added, “We’re not just going to do the very minimum and call it quits. We’re going to do as much as we can and put out as much resources as we can to try to save that person or find that person.”