Lack of emergency lighting putting firefighters at risk

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HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – There’s a chance to easily pass a fire station without even knowing it while driving any of the busy two lane roads of Horry County. Many of those fire stations on two lane roads, like Carolina Forest Boulevard and Forestbrook Road, lack the emergency lighting that usually accompanies a fire station located on a busy roadway. The situation is making it hard for firefighters to turn out of the station’s driveway in an emergency.

Horry County Fire Rescue station 39 is located on Carolina Forest Boulevard. Firefighters there said it’s difficult to turn on to the boulevard without an emergency light, especially during rush hour. WMBF News was told drivers sometimes attempt to beat the fire engine before it turns, or don’t stop.

“Carolina Forest is a heavily-congested area. The boulevard itself to 501, back up to River Oaks. There isn’t an electronic device there…and so it would help the fire engine and medic unit to get out,” Horry County Fire Rescue battalion chief John Fowler said.

Battalion chief Fowler explained emergency lights to stop traffic help emergency response. “You know, to get out of traffic quicker and move quicker will actually help improve response times and can also lessen the chance of an accident,” he said.

Horry County spokeswoman Lisa Bourcier said she wasn’t aware of any emergency light complaints from the station 39, but installing an emergency light at the station is something that will be considered under the Ride III project.

Carolina Forest Boulevard is one of the many two lane roads in Carolina Forest at the top of the project list to be widened. Bourcier explained there’s no light because Carolina Forest area roads weren’t nearly as busy when station 39 and the nearby station 45, on International Drive, were built. Emergency lights for fire stations aren’t usually needed on two lane roads, she said. However, as Carolina Forest continues to develop and the county’s population continues to grow, those roadways have morphed into busy gateways across the county.

Bourcier said emergency lights cost about $75,000. The engineers in charge of the road project will also be the ones deciding on an emergency light. She added there will not be a light installed until the road is widened, which may be a while. The tax to pay for Ride III just started Monday, and there’s no project timeline or contracts out yet. The $75,000 will come out of the Ride III budget.

The emergency light would operate from inside the fire station during an emergency.

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