HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WPDE) - It's National Volunteer Week, and there's one group who donates their time to public safety. There are about 200 volunteer firefighters who work for Horry County Fire Rescue. Interim Chief Kenneth Beans says they are vital to providing adequate coverage for those living in the county.
Station 45 in Carolina Forest is completely staffed by volunteers. Lt. Freddy DeAngelis is one of nine firefighters stationed there. He was recognized as one of the county's top volunteer responders for 2011. DeAngelis is a retired police officer, and he's been a volunteer firefighter since he was a teenager.
"That's the way I was brought up. My grandfather, my father, my brothers are all volunteers. My grandfather was a chief, my father was a chief, two of my brothers were chiefs, I was a captain on Long Island. It's a family thing, and it's always just stuck," said DeAngelis.
Volunteers complete the same amount of training as career firefighters, and they work side by side responding to people's emergencies.
"It's a bad time for them, but I have good time helping other people get through their bad time," says HCFR Volunteer Coordinator Shane Prince.
He's a career firefighter and still volunteers for the Loris Fire Department. "When I saw a fire engine when I was a little boy, I would get excited. I would like to see it get back to those days for the community to appreciate the fire service."
Prince says a new recruit class is set to be begin Monday. They'll have to complete 100 hours of training before they can go into the field.
Their time committment to the job continues in the field. Volunteer firefighters are on call 24/7. Because of that, it can be difficult to find the right people for the position.
"When you look at the financial situation of today, most people, most families, both the mother and father are working. In some cases, they're holding down two jobs. They don't have the time to give to our agencies or any agency that looks to volunteers to help out," explains Beans. "The volunteers are very important and integral part of our organization. Obviously with the tax structure and the revenue we receive, there's no way we're going to have an all career fire rescue department in this county."
Volunteers help the department run more efficiently.
"I like doing this. I like helping the people, and I like taking care of the community, chip in. Everybody should do it," says DeAngelis. "Volunteers are a special breed of person. They like to help the community. They don't want much to do it. A little respect a little gratitude from the community is welcome."
HCFR is currently working on ways to add more volunteers to the department to help firefighters in the field.
If you'd like to become a volunteer firefighter, you can fill out an application online.