Georgetown fire chief recalls boots-on-the-ground effort after Hurricane Hugo

Hurricane Hugo

PAWLEYS ISLAND, S.C. (WCBD) – This September will mark 30 years since Hurricane Hugo devastated much of the Lowcountry. This week, we take you to Georgetown County where the fire chief recalled being part of the boots-on-the-ground effort to clean up Pawleys Island in the aftermath.

Fire Chief Doug Eggiman road out Hurricane Hugo along with his team from behind the doors of the Midway Fire Rescue Headquarters in Pawleys Island.

“It was one of those sort of lifetime monumental events that you’ll never ever forget.”

Doug Eggiman wasn’t the fire chief at the time, but he was a new firefighter and paramedic. This was the first major hurricane of his career.

“I didn’t exactly have a whole lot of hurricanes under my belt at all—maybe one or two small ones or near misses’ type thing. But certainly nothing of the magnitude of Hurricane Hugo.”

The morning after Hugo made landfall, Chief Eggiman recalled being in shock as the Midway Fire & Rescue team patrolled Pawleys Island, assessing the damage, and looking for those who needed help.

“I really didn’t know what to expect; it was really kind of mind-blowing just to see the devastation and to walk down and there be lots where there used to be a house and there was nothing or look across the creek and there’d be a house sitting in the middle of the creek or on the other side of the creek.”

There weren’t any fires to respond to during or after the storm, but this didn’t stop the Midway Fire & Rescue team from working hard to help the community recover.

Chief Eggiman said their station became a feeding shelter for those who had come to Pawleys Island to help with the cleanup.

“We didn’t care that we became chefs, some of our people became chefs and some of our people became bus boys and stuff like that. We didn’t care that we were doing clean up after 150-200 law enforcement. It’s what we did. It’s what needed to be done and so, therefore, it was done.”

Chief Eggiman said it took the entire community working together to pull through Hugo.

“People helping people… that’s one of the blessings of this job. A lot of times we see some terrible things, but a lot of times we can also see people at their best, and to me, that was one of those times.”

Chief Eggiman said he is forever changed from witnessing first responders and neighbors helping neighbors in the aftermath of Hurricane Hugo… it’s the reason he loves what he does.

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