Jerry Liberatore was taking care of Wayne Newton's horsesin Las Vegas and volunteering as a firefighter when he decided he wanted to be a full-time firefighter.
"I decided I couldn't stay away from doing it full time...it was tearing me apart because I loved both."
Liberatore, 45, grew up in Queens, N.Y. and Long Island, N.Y., but has also lived in Maryland, California and Colorado. He earned a bachelor's degree in equine science from Colorado State University and worked with horses for 15 years while doing volunteer firefighting in Nevada and California. He moved to the area in 2004 to work for Midway Fire Rescue.
Now a captain, Liberatore is a vehicle coordinator for Midway. He is also a member of the county's Technical Rescue Team and the regional Urban Search and Rescue Team, which can be deployed anywhere in the state. Liberatore is a search technician, which means he's trained to get the cameras and acoustical devices into small spaces.
"We could find somebody that's totally trapped under debris and get them out," he said.
In March 2013, Liberatore and his team helped in the aftermath of the Windsor Green fire in Carolina Forest, sifting through the wrechage to make sure there weren't any human remains.
As a captian, he's in charge of Midway's headquaters station, in charge of A shift. and schedules training exercises and inspections.
He said he's also a "buffer" between the officers above him and firefighters he supervises.
In 2010, Liberatore and two other Midway firefighters rescued a man whose catamaran had flipped over several miles from shore. The Coast Guard used a helicopter to locate the man and the firefighters went out in a boat and brought him back to shore.
Liberatore was awarded the Medal of Valor for his actions.
"Whenever you go to a place where somebody is in need, and you were able to make their day a little bit better by helping them, it makes my days that much better," Liberatore said. "I go home with a sense of pride."
The worst exerience for the father of two young boys? Anything involving kids.
"We had an incident with a couple-day-old [child] that was really tough on us." Liberatore said. "That was probably my roughest day here at Midway."
Liberatore encourages young firefighters to always talk about bad expereinces, don't try and just forget them.
He also believes firefighters should contine to take classes throughout their careers because there's always new techniques and new equipment.
"My philosophy is you learn something new everyday until you're in the ground," Liberatore said.
Professionally, liberatore would like to be a battalion chief someday, and after he retires, work part-time as a nurse. He's already taking nursing classes and works part-time at Conway Medical Center.
Liberatore and his wife, Christine, live in the Burgess Community of Murrells Inlet with their sons, Gavin 6, and Bennett, 3.
"Every time I help somebody I think about my family," Liberatore said. "That could have been my family in need...I treat every run we do on as if i'm going [to help] a family member."
He loves watching sports on TV, playing softball with his fellow firefighters, and just doing things with the kids.
And like most firefighters, spending time in the kitchen.
"I love to cook," Liberatore said. "When i'm home I do most of the cooking. And my wife loves that."
South Strand News
Captain Jerry Liberatore