Horry County leader says fire service proposal puts residents in harm's way

Surfside Beach fire might have their coverage area in unincorporated Horry County cut in half (WPDE).

An Horry County Councilman is asking for a re-start on negotiations over a Memorandum of Understanding with Surfside Beach.

In June, Surfside Beach approved an adjusted proposal to provide automatic response to areas of the unincorporated areas of Horry County. The County makes these memorandums, called Fire Service Agreements, with municipalities to decrease response times.

Related: How Horry County keeps emergency response times low

The proposal would drop the Deerfield and Caropines communities from the Surfside Fire Department's automatic aid zone. Surfside has covered those communities under a verbal agreement for years.

That means for some, the fire station just blocks down the road won't be the first one to show up to an emergency.

"If your house is on fire do you want a truck to show up in 3 minutes or 13 minutes?" Gary Loftus, who represents the communities in council, asked. "I'd take 3 minutes every time, wouldn't you?"

If the proposal is approved by Horry County Council, the county's station on Scipio Lane would be the only one to automatically respond to calls from the two communities. Currently, both departments respond. Scipio Lane is four miles from some areas of Deerfield.

The Surfside Beach Town Council did not approve the measure unanimously. Councilwoman Julie Samples said she didn't mind covering the communities, but wants the county to pay for the cost of responding to calls outside of the town's limits.

The County staffs EMS crews inside the department at no cost to the town. Town leaders said the ambulances, which cost the county $25,000 each per year in other communities, are more than worth the automatic fire calls.

Samples said she would like to see the numbers for herself.

On Wednesday, Horry County leaders asked Surfside Beach officials to meet and review the proposed memorandum.

Loftus said he would like the two sides to pass a written version of what's already in place, and said the town and county should reimburse each other for the difference in costs.

Several Deerfield residents agree with that idea.

"It doesn't make a lot of sense for the closest service to not be servicing the people," David Cole said.

Under the new proposal, Surfside Beach would still cover several neighborhoods north of the town, which are too far from Horry County fire stations.

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