For years, the department has lacked manpower in emergency situations, making response times longer when timing is crucial.
Lives could be in danger in Georgetown County, where firehouses face chronic manpower shortages.
In some cases, fire engines continually go out with only one firefighter on the truck, while national standards call for a minimum of four. That can leave one person handling the duties of an entire crew for minutes — in situations where minutes matter — until other trucks can arrive.
A lot can happen in the first few minutes of a fire, according to Doug Stern, spokesman for the International Association of Fire Fighters. “One firefighter by himself is not going to be enough,” said Stern, noting the essential tasks required after arriving on scene, from locating a water source to dragging a hose. “One person alone cannot accomplish those tasks before a fire gets out of hand.”