While HCFR battles staffing shortage, other departments are full


When firefighters and paramedics currently working for Horry County Fire Rescue first told us that their working conditions deteriorated because of the department's staffing shortage, we wanted to know if other departments faced the same issue.

RELATED: Amid paramedics' claims of exhaustion, HCFR begins to change recruiting tactics

ABC15 requested staffing and salary information from 12 departments in South Carolina, including Horry County. Their sizes and level of service varied.

However, when adjusted to the size of HCFR, none had as many vacancies.

The largest department ABC15 contacted was Columbia Fire Department, with 486 firefighters and no paramedics. The department had two fire and EMS-related vacancies, plus an open Assistant Chief position.

The department with the second highest relative number of empty positions that responded to our request was Midway Fire Rescue, with four. If Midway was scaled to the size of Horry County, it would have around half the number of vacancies.

None of the departments we communicated with are hiring more than one paramedic. Horry County currently has seven openings.

The data ABC15 sorted through showed that HCFR's starting salaries for paramedics and non-paramedics is around the same as every other department's, although both HCFR spokesman Mark Nugent and HCFR staff say morale is the real problem.

"Up until now, a lot of our recruitment was probably word of mouth," Nugent explained. "Friends said 'Hey, come work here, I'm having a good time.' Right now... I don't think the morale is where it needs to be."

Nugent said the department is trying to change the way it recruits new employees.

Some departments aren't struggling to find recruits. In an email, Myrtle Beach spokesman Mark Kruea said more than 500 people had applied to the department's 12 most recent openings.

Kruea did not say how many of those applicants were qualified for the job.

"How are we still so short on manpower?" one HCFR employee wondered, when discussing the department's latest recruit classes.

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