Friday, October 4, 2013
About 10 minutes after Georgetown County's emergency dispatch center received a 911 call that Front Street in Georgetown was on fire last week, 19 members of Midway Fire Rescue were on their way to the scene with three engines and a ladder truck.
“As soon as [Georgetown's] units got on scene they called for us,” said Midway Chief Doug Eggiman. “It's the biggest mutual aid response we've ever had. Normally a mutual aid response to [Georgetown] is one engine or a ladder.”
Midway also sent an ambulance to the county fire headquarters on Highmarket Street in Georgetown so that station's ambulance could be on Front Street.
“Our mentality is you tell us what you need and we'll give whatever we have,” Eggiman said.
At Midway, 19 firefighters are usually on hand during a shift, so a battalion chief stayed behind to start calling in off-duty firefighters, many of whom were scheduled for the next shift, which started at 6:45 a.m.
Before heading to Georgetown, Eggiman made sure a nearby fire company could be alerted and moved into place in case there was a fire in Midway's coverage area.
While the fire was raging, the state's Firefighter Mobilization Plan was activated. This put every participating fire company in the state on alert that they might need to respond to Georgetown, or cover for another company that responded.
In addition to Midway and Georgetown city and county fire, companies that responded to the Front Street blaze were: Andrews, Murrells Inlet-Garden City, Surfside Beach, Horry and Williamsburg counties, Conway, Johnsonville, North Charleston, Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach and South Lynches in Florence County.
“To me it's illustrative of the level of professionalism we have in the fire service in South Carolina,” Eggiman said. “Everybody can work seamlessly. They show up and they're ready.”
At 4:18 p.m., nearly 11 hours after first responding to Front Street, Midway units left the scene, except for the ambulance that remained at the Highmarket station for a few more hours.
Midway firefighters were back on Front Street starting on Friday night to help county firefighters keep an eye on the buildings damaged by the fire, looking for hot spots and waiting to see if more of the buildings were going to collapse.
“Bricks hold the heat in,” Eggiman said. “We're there to make sure nothing flares up.”
Limpin' Jane's, which is where the fire started, had been torn down the day after the fire. On Sunday night, the fašades of Doodlebugs and Zest collapsed. As of Tuesday night, the fašade of Buzz's Roost was still standing, as were the buildings that housed Goudelock & Co., Harborwalk Books, and Colonial Floral Fascinations.
Eggiman said he was impressed with the response from the public in the aftermath of the fire, with people arriving on Front Street with food and drinks for first responders, and the outpouring of support in the week since.
“The firefighters realize how much they are appreciated,” he said.