Two Horry County Fire Rescue stations were down staffed, without the necessary manpower Wednesday.
Station 40 on Old Reaves Ferry Road, off Highway 905, and station 43 on Highway 90 were designated for what fire crews call a "brown out" because of a lack of staff.
"To down staff a station is our very last policy," spokeswoman Leslie Yancey said, "and we go through a series of events before we get to that point."
Station administrators look to move extra personnel to those stations that are understaffed, see if firefighters can receive overtime, and also move employees from certain units before down staffing a fire station, Yancey said.
"When we find ourselves in it, it's situations people are calling out sick, maybe they've had a death in their family. We are just at a shortage of staff. It's not an anticipated thing. More of a last minute situation," she said.
The down staffing of stations does add to the response time. Surrounding stations service those areas.
The closest station to station 40 is station 43, which means the nearest fully staffed station on Wednesday was at 7552 Highway 905. That's 9.34 miles away.
"The (response) times are really not that skewed or different so to speak. Our stations are very close together. We have a great ISO rating."
Insurance Service Office (ISO) rating is a grade given to fire departments that can affect insurance rates. HCFR has an ISO rating of five. One is the best. Ten is the worst.
Two trained fire fighters must be working at the station at all times to be considered fully staffed.
Often times when the station is down staffed, extra volunteers man the station and a lone paid firefighter can respond to some minor incidents.
"This doesn't mean the station is closed," Yancey said. "For example station 40 was down staffed, we have our wellness officer who's a firefighter who actually has an office in there. People were saying, 'Is station 40 closed?' No, it was down staffed, and 40 was able to respond because we had volunteers and staff in the station."
To ease the amount of down staffed stations, 23 new recruits and ten volunteers graduated from the fire academy last week.
"Those are 33 more boots on the street. Thirty-three more people that will be there to help people of Horry County," Yancey said. "It's not going to be happening often as it has in the past."
Down staffing a station doesn't happen often, according to Yancey. But firefighters tell us it has been happening frequently.
"Understand that if we're going to down staff a station, we're not going to down staff Socastee or even Bayboro or Little River. We look at call volume, closeness in response to the next incoming station. There are a lot of things that come into considering whether we're going to down staff a station."
"We make it seem like a seamless effort because maybe that neighbor that you're talking about would not even know that their station has been downed staffed."
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