Press release from North Myrtle Beach as follows:
Nearly a year has passed since the Highway 31 Wildfire destroyed or damaged more than 150 homes in Barefoot Resort on April 23, 2009. As a direct result of this disaster, the City of North Myrtle Beach and the North Myrtle Beach Department of Public Safety have been working hard ever since to improve training, equipment and operations in order to help prevent another tragedy.
"We learned a lot from the wildfire last April and the Department of Public Safety, including the Fire Rescue Division, is committed to improving our operations in order to serve and protect our residents," said Fire Chief Tom Barstow, who also serves as the City's emergency manager.
North Myrtle Beach firefighters have increased their training with two wildland firefighting classes held through the South Carolina Forestry Commission. More than 53 City firefighters, whose main experience had been to protect the lives and safety of citizens and visitors through fighting structure fires, will be certified wildland firefighters after their practical test. The test is currently being scheduled through South Carolina Forestry Commission. This training gives North Myrtle Beach firefighters the skills and hands-on experience in dealing with wildfires.
The North Myrtle Beach Public Safety Department also stepped up its communication to residents and visitors by enrolling in a free community information service called Nixle, which delivers trustworthy and important neighborhood-level public safety alerts and community notifications from authorized City of North Myrtle Beach staff instantly via cell phone text message, email and the Web. Residents and those people planning to visit North Myrtle Beach are encouraged to sign up at www.Nixle.com
In addition, the Public Safety Department and the City's emergency manager have partnered with the National Weather Service to broadcast emergency messages through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) weather radio system.
Another step the Department of Public Safety took was assessing current firefighting equipment and, with community support, obtaining additional equipment in order to more effectively fight wildfires. The Fire Rescue Division received nine full sets of wildfire turnout gear from Wal-Mart in North Myrtle Beach and the Catholic Diocese of Charleston, who donated the gear as a public service to the community. Also, T-Bonz Gill and Grill at Barefoot Landing will be holding a fund raiser from 6-9 p.m. on Thursday, April 22, with proceeds benefitting local firefighters. The money raised will be used for additional wildfire turnout gear.
In other efforts to protect residents, City Council passed an ordinance that bans open burning in the City limits. The City also made it a priority to pave Water Tower Road from Barefoot Resort to Highway 31 in order for Barefoot Resort residents to have an additional egress in the event of another emergency. Also, the fiscal year 2011 budget will reflect the City's commitment to firefighting efforts with money allocated for a multi-purpose vehicle that will be able to assist with wild land firefighting.
In addition to the City's actions, the South Carolina Forestry Department has met with communities in North Myrtle Beach to help them become Firewise communities. The national Firewise Communities program is intended to serve as a resource for agencies, tribes, organizations, fire departments and communities across the U.S. that are working toward a common goal: reduce loss of lives, property and resources to wildland fire by building and maintaining communities in a way that is compatible with our natural surroundings.The Tidewater Community now holds the distinction of being a Firewise Community.
For more information, contact the City of North Myrtle Beach at (843) 280-5555. As always, in the case of an emergency, call 911 immediately.
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