Fire agreement unsafe for some Surfside Beach communities, county leaders argue

CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – Horry County leaders say a vote by Surfside Beach Town Council could put some neighbors in danger if a fire occurs in their neighborhood.

At the end of June, Surfside Beach leaders voted to reduce Surfside Beach Fire response to Horry County homes. In Wednesday’s Horry County Public Safety Committee meeting, council members argued the change in mutual aid puts some communities at risk.

In the past, those who live in the Deerfield area near Surfside Beach would have both Surfside Beach and Horry County Fire Rescue respond to emergencies. Under the new mutual aid agreement, approved by Surfside Beach, Surfside Beach Fire Rescue crews would only respond if specifically requested by HCFR.

“The council had asked that we try to keep our vehicles in town,” explains Surfside Beach Fire Rescue Chief Kevin Otte. “They had gone to county council and talked to them so the county fire chief and myself came together, looked at the response areas, and decided these areas we’ve swapped out will work out best for everyone.”

Some Horry County officials, however, do not agree the new plan is best for everyone.

“The agreement says we’ll help them but they won’t help us,” simplifies Horry County Councilman Gary Loftus. “Now, that doesn’t sound like much of an agreement to me.”

The updated policy would decrease the areas Surfside Beach Fire responds to in Horry County by more than 50 percent.

“Why pass us to go somewhere else? It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” questions Loftus.

The closes EMS station to the Deerfield area is the Surfside Beach Fire Department. If Surfside Beach crews stop responding to calls in Deerfield, the closest Horry County station is on Scipio Lane, roughly four miles away.

“So we have a station right across the street,” says Loftus, “so it makes absolutely no sense to call in for four miles or five miles when we have one right across the street.”

Chief Otte says if Horry County needs more help, those crews can request it from Surfside Beach. The county provides two EMS workers who work out of the Surfside Beach fire station.

“We’ll see if we can’t come to a mutually beneficial arrangement, which is what we have now,” voices Loftus.

Even though the new mutual aid agreement passed a vote by Surfside Beach Town Council, no changes will be made until Horry County Council is able to vote.

Loftus says he wants county council to first meet with Surfside Beach mayor and fire chief.