Myrtle Beach Fire Department making changes ahead of beach season

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MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – Myrtle Beach Fire Rescue is changing up their beach patrol this year.

The department is adding a new position, increasing patrols on the beach and getting new equipment.

“We’re hoping to have another safe season with zero drownings,” said Myrtle Beach Fire Lt. Jonathan Evans. “We have a few more personal watercrafts, jet skis, zodiac boats, so we are focusing on those because not everyone has had training with those. We have the Emilys coming in soon too, which is the electronic lifeguards.”

Myrtle Beach Fire Rescue created a new position in preparation for beach season. The new supervisor position is in the city’s proposed 2019 budget. Evans said this person will mostly work with the beach rescue team.

“The position is titled as battalion chief of special operations. So they’ll be in charge of water rescue, urban search and rescue teams, and weapons of mass destruction teams, but with a pretty strong emphasis on the water rescue side because that is one of our bigger, more prominent teams right now. So they’ll be in charge of the operations and training and equipment that goes along with this team,” said Evans. “It’s definitely something that we need and I think it will be a benefit overall and takes some of the responsibility of the chiefs who are doing a lot of other stuff as well. So we’re pretty excited.”

Evans says four crews will patrol the beach each day in the summer. While beachgoers will see more firefighters, they’ll see less police.

“The fire department has taken over the water rescue side, which was primarily Myrtle Beach Police’s side,” said Evans.

Myrtle Beach Police Capt. David Knipes says police will only respond to crimes on the beach.

“After talking to city council and beach advisory, we thought this would be the best way to utilize our teams,” Evans said.

Last year, firefighters rescued around 20 people from the ocean, according to Evans. The department reported no drownings occurred all summer.

“We had a great season last year, but it’s still new for us and we’re still going with it and learning as we go,” Evans said.

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