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South Carolina firefighters sounding the alarm about vacancies

A firefighter in brush gear.
A firefighter in brush gear.(MGN)
Published: Feb. 16, 2022 at 10:08 AM EST
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(WMBF) - South Carolina faces more than 500 open positions for firefighters across the state.

The South Carolina Firefighter’s Association says the Upstate sees more than 200.

“And those are only the ones that are advertised,” Steve Graham said.

Graham serves as the Boiling Spring Fire District Chief. Chief Steve Graham says the fire industry has changed as a whole, and therefore, the way the fire service recruits needs to change.

“It’s not just running into burning buildings anymore, and I think that’s frustrating for them. So we need to adjust our recruiting,” Graham said. The chief adds the fire service comes with long hours and certifications that require continued education. “You have to have 244 hours a firefighter training, once that’s completed you have a six-month EMT program to complete so you can deliver service at a level that Pugh Public has come to expect,” Graham said.

The southeast typically pays the lowest out of any region for public safety, and the association fears the driving competition is pushing even the most giving hearts away from the predominantly ‘people-oriented field.’

“We’ve got to get out there and sell our business and explain to people why it’s a great business to be in. We’ve got to do more than we had to do in the past,” Chief Jamie Caggiano said.

Caggiano serves as the South Carolina Firefighter’s Association president and said the number of vacancies is most likely closer to 600 to 700 across the state.

Caggiano adds times have changed where stations used to recruit from volunteers. However, the pool of volunteers is also dwindling.

As the industry shifts more to medical calls, firefighters are required to be more adaptable. Firefighters say it’s extremely rewarding and about taking care of your neighbor.

Chief Graham said the business can lead to several different avenues and create connections across the state. He adds fire chiefs need to come together to tackle the gaps as a whole.

In the meantime, grants are provided to help with recruitment and retention for the volunteers, men, and women who have what it takes to help the public when they need it most.

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