Fire officials reflect on lessons learned after the Highway 31 Wildfire April 22, 2009

MAY 1, 2019

~ Bobbi Reeves

First and foremost, I would like to say “thank you” to Neal Witkin for taking the time to put together an impressive program which took place at North Myrtle Beach City Hall. Neal took it upon himself to invite an expert panel to discuss lessons learned, improvements made over the last ten years, and most importantly what you can do to protect your family and your home.

The 2009 fire was devasting. The wildfire destroyed seventy-six homes many in Barefoot Resort and damaged ninety-seven homes, many vehicles, and other structures.

The expert panel included:

Jonathan Calore, Incident Commander (Incident Management Team-IMT)
Drake Carroll, Firewise and Prevention, Coastal Field Coordinator South Carolina Forestry Commission
Jay Fernandez, Director of Public Safety, City of North Myrtle Beach
Greg Frazier, North Myrtle Beach Fire Marshal
Mike Ney, Pee Dee Regional Forester, South Carolina Forestry Commission
Garry Spain, North Myrtle Beach Fire Chief
Joseph Tanner, Fire Chief for Horry county Fire and Rescue

Since 2009, there have been numerous improvements including concentrated wildfire training for new recruits and additional wildfire training for firefighters which takes place in Texas. There is a strong focus on much needed equipment and as a result, enclosed cab bulldozers were purchased to protect our firefighters and allow them to go into areas they couldn’t get to in 2009. Due to advanced technology, the team has significantly improved communication and the utilization of two Drones. The Drones have the capability to scan areas of interest and provide real time images and data to the Command Center to help in the decision-making process.

Drake Carroll, Firewise and Prevention, Coastal Field Coordinator South Carolina Forestry Commission presented information on what you can do to prepare for an event and be a Firewise home. Furthermore, how our community can participate in Firewise. To date, there are thirty-five Firewise Communities in South Carolina. Of the thirty-five, sixteen communities are in Horry County. Take a look at what you can do to keep your family and home safe by clicking on the link below.

Another area of improvement took place in 2013 when Horry County began participating in CodeRED®. The CodeRED® system enables individuals and businesses to add your telephone numbers directly to the system’s database. The system was recently updated which now allows users to add multiple addresses and as many phone numbers as needed for other family members or employees. The system also allows email addresses as the emergency notification and can be broadcast via phone, text or email. If you are interested in registering, here is the link.