Friday, November 30, 2012
Midway Fire Rescue is hosting an open house on Sunday to celebrate 50 years of service.
Midway was actually founded on Dec. 11, 1961 by Ed Mills, Wallace Pate, Boyd Marlowe, Henry Deer and Seth Dingle, but didn’t start providing service until 1962. The first employee was Fire Chief William Dotter.
For its first 20 years of existence, Midway relied on volunteers like John Stewart, who joined in 1977.
Before there was a standardized 911 system for emergencies, Waccamaw Neck residents had to call the Litchfield Inn or the Seagull Inn if there was a fire. Whoever was on duty at the inns would then call the volunteers.
“Sometimes it took awhile to get all the volunteers out,” Stewart said.
There was also a siren at the firehouse on Highway 17 near the Shell station, but if you didn’t live nearby you couldn’t hear it.
Stewart said because the community was so small and everybody knew each other, volunteers would often get directions like “go to the Smiths’ house and take a right and the fire is down that road.”
When Mike Mock took over as chief in 1978 he raised money to buy pagers for the volunteers.
As the Waccamaw Neck continued to grow, Mock realized that Midway needed full-time firefighters. He raised money and worked with the county for years before hiring Sam Rudolph in 1986.
In those days, Midway responded to less than 200 calls per year. Doug Eggiman, who was the third full-time firefighter hired and is now the chief, said people were amazed when the yearly tally topped 300. In 2011, Midway responded to more than 2,300 calls.
Midway’s evolution continued with firefighters training to become EMTs and paramedics to supplement the Pawleys Island Rescue Squad.
“There weren’t a lot of programs like that in the state,” Eggiman said.
Around 2003, with fewer volunteers available, the Rescue Squad asked Midway to take over water rescues. By 2005, the Rescue Squad officially became part of Midway.
As Midway grew, firefighters moved from the old station on Highway 17 to the headquarters station off Willbrook Boulevard, which was recently rebuilt, and to stations in DeBordieu and on Beaumont Lane.
“It’s been incredible to watch the department grow and it’s been incredible to watch the people grow,” Eggiman said.
Georgetown County is inviting all former Midway employees and volunteers to an anniversary celebration on Sunday at 2 p.m. at the headquarters station. Please RSVP to 545-3620.
By Chris Sokoloski
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