Learning about the Brotherhood Traveling Through South Dakota

Captain Wines (IronFiremen.com) and I just got back from an epic journey in South Dakota. We have a lot to say, hopefully we will be able to get it all written. Captain Wines has already summed up the first part of our trip here.

See over 100 photos of our trip on the Fire Critic Facebook Page

Our trip consisted of flying into Rapid City, SD and traveling across the State to Sioux Falls. It culminated with the South Dakota Firefighters Benefit. Our journey took us to over a dozen firehouses across South Dakota. We also got to see Mt. Rushmore, corn, and soy beans…

We traveled with Gary (the driver) of Spartan ERV, Shane Parkins of the National Firefighters Endowment, and Bob Gard of the Canton Fire Department.

I must first thank the sponsors of our trip and the Benefit. They include Spartan ERV, Ride Backwards, All About TravelFranklin SilveradoFirehouse BreweryGrand Falls Casino Resort, Allegiant Emergency Services, Phenix Fire Helmets, Danko Emergency Equipment, Sanford HealthGoeman AuctionFarm Country Trader IncBoltes SanitationDarleyMSA CairnsResQmeTrue North GearMn8 ProductsBlack Helmet, FatIvanPelican, Wall Shields, and Black Jack Helmet Holder among others. 

And then there are the departments…The various Fire Departments across the State who welcomed us in and allowed us to enjoy their company. The Brother and Sister Firefighters who showed us their firehouses, their history, their pride, their traditions, their apparatus, and much more.

They include: Keystone FD, Deadwood FD, Rapid City firehouse 1 & 4, Sturgis FD, Pierre FD, Onida FD, Miller FD, Huron FD, Mitchell FD, Brandon FD, Sioux Falls firehouse 1 & 4, Chancellor FD, and Canton FD. I think I named them all

I don’t know the best way of sharing all of my experiences, but I will try

One thing to note is that firefighters across South Dakota do a lot of wildland firefighting. Many departments offer fire suppression for their towns/cities as well as “rural” firefighting. This includes separate apparatus typically manned by the same groups of firefighters. Most locations also have EMS of some sort offered, but that is typically a separate department. Many of the departments we visited had firefighters out on a wildland fire as we were there.

Keystone Fire Department

The Keystone Fire Department was our first stop after visiting Mount Rushmore. Keystone FD is a combination department located at the foot of Mount Rushmore. In fact, they operate an engine that used to serve Mount Rushmore exclusively. The engine was given to Keystone, and now they serve the Landmark. We met two firefighters there who gave us a tour of the firehouse and enjoyed telling us about their department, firehouse, and culture. The town of Keystone is known for its rich gold mining history.

Deadwood Volunteer Fire Department

Web SiteHistoric Fire of 1879

We spent the night in Deadwood and the Deadwood VFD allowed us to park our Spartan ERV engine in their bay. In the early morning of  Thursday, we got up and visited the firehouse before embarking on our journey across the State. Their Chief, Hawkeye, showed us around and told us about all of their apparatus. We enjoyed seeing all of the history shared in pictures on the walls of the firehouse. They also have a memorial sitting in the front of the firehouse. These guys have a great firehouse!

We also enjoyed staying at the Silverado Franklin Hotel/Casino while we were there. This was a treat. The hotel was built in 1903.

Rapid City Fire Department

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We visited firehouse 1 and 4 in Rapid City.

Firehouse 4

At station 4 we met not only the President of the EMS Association, but also the Rapid City IAFF Local President. They have Piranha’s in the day room! That could be a first. They also have a Pierce engine that offers a hose bed that lowers out the back of the engine to assist in loading hose from the ground. Their firehouse features a newly expanded sleeping area for the firefighters. Thanks for the tour!

Firehouse 1

Firehouse 1 is their main station. We were treated to a tour of the firehouse, shown their history and culture, and then got a bigger treat. Rapid City has recently acquired one of their original ladder trucks. This thing is in great condition for its age.

We ate at Firehouse Brewery which occupies the original Rapid City Firehouse #1. The history and culture of the City FD was alive inside the Brewery/Restaurant. If you are ever in the area be sure to stop in and grab some food and hand crafted beer!

Sturgis Fire Department

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We made it to Sturgis FD (maybe it wasn’t in this order…I can’t remember). Sturgis is the home to about 7000 people. For 21 days, around 500,000 motorcycle riders converge in Sturgis for the Sturgis motorcycle rally. Needless to say, this department gets very busy during the events. Their Fire Chief showed us around the station and all of their apparatus. They have EMS in the station, but it is now a separate department. They also house an antique fire engine that is original to their department.  We picked up a shirt from the department and will wear it with pride!

Pierre Fire Department

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Pierre (pronounced Pier) Fire Department offers fire protection for the Capital of South Dakota. The very interesting thing about Pierre FD is one of two volunteer Fire Departments protecting a Capital city in the US (Dover, Delaware being the other). They do have a full-time Chief, in case you were wondering. We were met by Pierre’s Assistant Chief Ian Paul. They actually toned out that we were there and many firefighters showed up to welcome us to their City. Their firefighters are very organized for a volunteer organization. The firefighters are actually assigned to a piece of apparatus and that is where they ride all of the time. They have a great bunch of firefighters and showed off their pride of their culture by viewing their antiques, photos, and artifacts upstairs.

Pierre is also the home of the South Dakota Fallen Firefighters Memorial. Bob, Gary, Shane, Willie, and I spent some time at the memorial and reflected on the fallen firefighters on the memorial. The memorial sits next to the Police and EMS memorials as well.

Onida Fire Department

Onida Fire Department was probably the smallest (going on call volume) and one of the more remote fire department we visited. They run 25 calls a year. However, they cover approximately 1600 square miles, and the call volume is no measure of their dedication. We were met by several of their members and enjoyed learning about their culture and heritage. They showed us their apparatus and we got a hold of one of their shirts. Thanks for the tour!

We thought it was awesome to see where our tater tots come from we eat at the firehouse all the time…unfortunately, they told us that was not Onida…oops!

Miller Fire Department

At the Miller Fire Department, we were met by several members. Their Chief even came in after jumping off of a combine while harvesting crops. Willie really wanted to run off with him to run the combine for a while, but he resisted the urge as we had many miles to travel. I cannot say enough about how these fire departments opened their doors to us and the Miller FD was no exception. Just from the front doors, one of the guys pointed to where the town had experienced big losses in fires over the years.

Huron Fire Department

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Huron FD has two stations. We got to see their station 2, and the driver on Engine 1 brought their engine over to visit with us. Ernie also stopped by, one of their members, and offered Willie and I a coin in which we gave him one of ours. They operate with one paid firefighter per shift. The #2 firehouse also provides fire protection for the airport (they run out the back), and a rural response department. Once again, we got to witness their culture and heritage by the photos and artifacts they have on display. They even have a real jet sitting on a stick next to the firehouse!

Mitchell Fire Department

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The guys at Mitchell Fire Department were there in force. This was probably the youngest crew we met the entire shift. The department is fully paid, and has a bunch of young and dedicated firefighters. On the way into town, we saw the Porn Palace and the Corn Palace…Willie slept through both. These guys showed us around the firehouse. It was one of the rare departments we visited that ran both fire and EMS from the same department. These guys have an awesome kitchen! Their bays are full of apparatus including the “rural” apparatus they operate as well. Thanks for the warm reception and tour!

Brandon Fire Department

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Brandon FD is where Gary volunteers as the Assistant Chief. Gary works for Spartan ERV and drove us all over the State in a brand new Spartan engine. The Brandon FD operates Fire and first responder calls. Their EMS is handled by a separate department. Brandon has an antique fire engine sitting out back that they hope to restore in the future. They also have a full size statue of a firefighter at their front door. This is probably the largest fire station we visited.

Sioux Falls Fire Department

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Firehouse #1

We got to visit the historic firehouse #1 where they were celebrating 100 years of dedication to Sioux Falls. We were welcomed by their crew and shown around the firehouse. One interesting note about this firehouse is that there is a basketball/volleyball court upstairs where the old hayloft used to be. Inside the bay sat an old fire engine, an old steamer, and an old hand pumper. There were photo albums and artifacts from over the years. Randy Wold was also there…he is Sioux Falls first Master Firefighter. The Fire Chief had recently come up with the certification of Master Firefighter and Wold was the only one who met the criteria. The award is being issued the only leather helmet in the City apparently. Very nice!

Firehouse #4

We got to meet up with Adam Frick at firehouse #4. Adam assisted Bob Gard in planning the Benefit and was supposed to cross the State with us but couldn’t get off work. Adam is a roving firefighter so he doesn’t have a set firehouse he works at. Adam showed us around #4 and explained how the firehouse operated. #4 is a newer firehouse, so we didn’t get to see all of the history we were used to in the other firehouses, but then again it did remind of us the department we work for.

Chancellor Fire Department

The Chancellor FD offered us a real treat. They were waiting for us because we were running behind. 12 of their 18 members were their to welcome us. The population of Chancellor is about 280. While many firehouses we saw had antique apparatus, the Chancellor FD had a 1905 waterous otter pumper…but this wasn’t just any antique, this thing works still. As a matter of fact, they used it up until 1953 and still operate it in parades. They fired it up and even let Willie and I on the pipe. It was amazing to see these guys operate the pumper without even telling each other what to do…they knew their job and made it happen. Operating the pipe on this thing is in the top of my list of fire service memories. After we had fun flowing water, they showed us around the firehouse and told us about their heritage. Willie and I couldn’t get enough of their stories.

Furthermore, the Chancellor FD was the most represented at the SD Firefighter Benefit which meant we got to spend a lot of time with them. As a matter of fact, we stayed up til 3am talking and sharing stories.

Canton Fire Department

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Our last stop was for dinner at Bob Gard’s firehouse. Bob had dinner catered by a local company and it was excellent. The Canton FD offers suppression for Canton and “rural” protection for the outlying area. The also house an EMS crew that is separate from the FD. Once again, the firehouse was clean, showed off their heritage and culture, and showed their department’s dedication.

Willie and I were amazed at the caliber of the firefighters, the amount of history in each house, the welcome and all around enjoyment it seemed the firefighters had in showing off their department.

I will write more in the coming days about the South Dakota Firefighters Benefit.