Pay, retention, equipment concerns brought up within Mt. Pleasant Fire Department

They put their lives on the line every day, but are Mount Pleasant firefighters given the right equipment to keep themselves and you safe?
Published: Apr. 13, 2023 at 5:32 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 13, 2023 at 8:30 PM EDT
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MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCSC) - They put their lives on the line every day, but are Mount Pleasant firefighters given the right equipment to keep themselves and you safe?

Some posts going around on social media and a former firefighter state that’s questionable.

Joshua Vriens lives in Mount Pleasant and worked for the town’s fire department for about a year.

He says the people within the agency are great but there were a number of problems including pay and retention.

“We have such poor retention rates,” Vriens says. “Right now over 10% of the department has less than, or right around, one year of experience. The rates for firefighters that have five years of experience is even lower. You have Battalion Chiefs here that have been giving it their all for 25-30 years and should be Administrative Chiefs. Yet, they see that their pay hasn’t even been keeping up with with inflation for years to come. And so the big issue right now is that compression and pay. You have experienced engineers that are teaching new engineers that are making more than them. So why would somebody stick around?”

Mount Pleasant Mayor Will Haynie says the starting pay increases from 2019 to fiscal year 2024 range from 38.2% to 41.6% and for existing personnel range from 47.8% to 50.9%.

But Vriens claims that still doesn’t compare to surrounding cities like Charleston or North Charleston.

Another issue Vriens brought up is the equipment firefighters are dealing with on a daily basis.

“We have one reserve ladder truck that’s supposed to be used when the front line apparatus break,” Vriens says. “The problem is that all three of our trucks are old and the reserve apparatus has pretty much become a front line apparatus. This reserve truck is over 20 years old and it’s got a host of issues… The problem is that this same ladder truck, just a couple months ago, the brakes ran out on the way to a structure fire call. Yesterday, they got a call and that the truck wouldn’t start. And this is the same truck that at the Jean’s Bridal store, the master stream failed and almost took out two firefighters, it was a near miss.”

Mayor Haynie says two ladder trucks were re-certified Monday as part of their scheduled annual inspection and all three ladder trucks, including the spare, will be fully operational by next week.

He says two new trucks have been ordered but there are delays still because of global supply chain issues and they won’t get here until next year.

“If you have a two-story home, I would be very concerned especially if you’re on the north side of town because you’re just not going to get the response that you expect,” Vriens says. “On top of that, with our ISO rating, that’s very closely tied to our homeowners insurance rates. And so if we go down in ISO rating expect your homeowners insurance rates to Skyrocket.”

Insurance Service Office is a public protection classification from 1 to 10, with one being the best. Mount Pleasant has an ISO rating of 2.

Vriens says the people who serve in the Mount Pleasant Fire Department are some of the best he’s ever worked with. He’s just hoping they get the resources they need.

“These guys and girls they get up every single day and they’re they are ready and willing to save lives and give it their all,” Vriens says. “It blows my mind that we can, at least, give them the opportunity and the resources to do the job safely.”

Mayor Haynie tells me 40 of 47 strategic goals were accomplished during the 2019-2023 strategic plan.

Drafting of the new plan is underway and will be finished within the next few months.