Todd Blomdahl grew up dreaming of becoming a professional baseball player, not a professional firefighter.
When his baseball dreams ended in college, Blomdahl, 50, joined the Navy and became a firefighter on the minesweeper ship he served on.
“That’s the first time I had ever been exposed to firefighting and I just loved it … and it was something I did very well,” said Blomdahl, now the fire marshal at Midway Fire Rescue.
Blomdahl was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, but moved as a child with his family to Florida.
“My dad hated the snow,” he said.
After graduating from Plantation High School in Plantation, Florida, Blomdahl played baseball for a few years at Broward Community College.
He quit before getting his degree and joined the Navy in 1985 and was stationed in Charleston.
When he left the Navy, he settled in Murrells Inlet, close to where his wife, Suzanne, grew up, and began volunteering with the Murrells Inlet-Garden City Fire Department. At the time, he said, he didn’t think he would make a career out of it.
Blomdahl moved his family back to south Florida so he could work as a yacht mechanic. He also started a book company, which he later sold, and brought his family back to Murrells Inlet.
With his wife running her own company, Blomdahl began volunteering for Murrells Inlet-Garden City Fire again and became a stay-at-home dad – “greatest job ever,” he added.
Twenty-three years ago, Blomdahl starting training to become a full-time firefighter at Midway. It was the last recruiting class the department would have.
“At that time, it was very easy to get a job as a firefighter,” Blomdahl said.
After getting his firefighting and EMT certifications, Blomdahl was hired by Murrells Inlet-Garden City Fire, where he worked until he joined Midway in 1995.
After rising through the ranks to become a master firefighter, the fire inspector’s job came open, and Blomdahl jumped at it.
“I always enjoyed public education, public speaking and working with the business community,” he said. “So I thought, ‘Hey, this might be a good opportunity'.”
Blomdahl’s sons, Justin and Christian, were young at the time so he said he thought the hours would be better.
“The five-day a week schedule fit well,” Blomdahl said.
When he started 17 years ago, Midway did two or three public education programs a year. Now Blomdahl oversees 60 or 70 events a year, reaching thousands of people of all ages.
“We’ve ramped up our public education dramatically,” he said.
Midway firefighters have yearly run programs with every Waccamaw Neck student in kindergarten through eighth grade. There are also programs for businesses and older adults and free home safety inspections.
Blomdahl believes that public-education programs lead to a decrease in fire calls because people are more aware of how to be safe.
“By reducing the amount of mistakes as human beings ... it makes our firefighters safer, makes out community safer, and it makes everybody better off because we don’t have as many fires,” Blomdahl said.
Blomdahl is about three years from retirement and said he has no plans for any more promotions.
He and Suzanne love to travel, taking about three or four trips a year, and he still loves being on a boat and fishing.
Blomdahl used to coach his oldest son, Justin, in soccer and said he may want to get back into coaching after retiring from Midway.
He said he gets asked a lot by teenagers about becoming a firefighter. He always tells them to start volunteering for a fire department first and see if you like it before paying for training. He also suggests young adults get a college degree first since most departments require a degree to be an officer and a degree will give them an advantage over other candidates when applying for a job.
“Everything being equal between the two (candidates), one of them has a bachelor’s degree and the other one has no degree, than the chances are the bachelor’s degree is going to get you in the door,” said Blomdahl, who has an associate’s degree in fire science from Horry Georgetown Technical College.
“The degree will get you through the door,” he said. “What you do when you get through the door is up to you.”