Tuesday, July 7, 2020

RCFD Sees High Independence Day Call Volume



Rapid City, S.D - The Rapid City Fire Department experienced a higher than usual call volume during the Fourth of July weekend responding to a total of 204 total calls for service. Included in those calls were 25 separate fires reported from 7 am July 3 until 7 am July 6. Of those, 10 fires occurred in dumpsters while 11 were grass and/or vegetation fires. One grass fire and one dumpster fire impacted structures causing minor damage to the building before firefighters extinguished them. Here's a breakdown of some of the notable incidents from the weekend:

July 3

A-Shift ran 76 calls for service with fires accounting for five of those calls (two grass and three dumpster). Both grass fires occurred in the Rapid Valley area. One fire, in the area of 747 Timmons Boulevard, burned half of an acre of grass. The fire was reported at 6:45 pm and burned through short grass with flame lengths of two to three feet. The fire did threaten a nearby dental office for a short period of time. Bystanders were attempting to extinguish the fire when crews arrived. It is believed to have been caused by fireworks.

The second grass fire happened close by the first fire in the area of 815 Missoula Street. That fire was reported at 9:27 pm. A total of an acre of grass was burned. Firefighters arrived to find a fire burning near the backyards of homes. The cause is suspected to have been related to fireworks activity in the area.

At 10:48 pm, Stations 1, 4 and 6 responded to a report of a dumpster fire threatening homes and a fence at 2720 Orchard Lane. Crews knocked down the fire after it extended to a wooden fence close by. There were no reports of damage to structures as a result of the fire.

The Rapid City Fire Department provided 10 personnel to support events at Mount Rushmore. The personnel were assigned to medical operations at the monument and provided Emergency Medical Services for the event. Their day began at around 5:00 am with some members not returning until after 2:00 am.

July 4

B-Shift crews responded to 76 calls for service on Independence Day. Of those 76 calls, 17 were fires including 8 grass fires, 6 dumpster fires, and 2 mutual aid responses for structure fires outside of the city. Fifteen fires occurred between the hours of 9:00 pm and 3:00 am.

At 10:05 pm, Station 7 responded to a report of a garbage can that had caught fire and extended into the siding on a residence. Firefighters arrived to find the fire extinguished by homeowners. While the siding on the home was scorched there was no extension into the home. Had the fire occurred after everyone had gone inside, a much more serious fire likely would have resulted.

Just after 11:00 pm, Stations 1, 2, 3 and 7 responded to a report of a vegetation fire threatening an apartment building at 222 Anamosa Street. When firefighters arrived, the front lawn of the apartment was on fire and had extended into a juniper tree. Flames were impinging on the building with an ember shower blanketing the roof. Occupants inside of the building were unaware of the fire and were evacuated by members of the RCFD and Rapid City Police Department. Heat from the fire melted blinds in the window of one apartment. A quick knockdown of the fire by Station 1 crews prevented the fire from spreading inside of the building. The building sustained minor damage. No injuries were reported.

Later in the evening, Stations 3 and 7 as well as Battalion Chief Brian Povandra responded to a structure fire in the 800 block of Virginia Lane as automatic mutual aid to the North Haines Fire Department. The fire reached a third alarm before being controlled. Multiple structures and vehicles were damaged or destroyed and several other homes and vehicles were threatened. This taxed resources already spread thin by high call volume and resources depleted by the holiday weekend.

July 5

C-Shift saw a return to more normal call volume with 52 calls for service on Sunday. While the volume of calls remained more toward normal, a number of the calls were high intensity incidents that further stressed a physically and emotionally tired force. C-Shift crews responded to three fires between 7:00 pm and 11:00 pm on Sunday. The lone structure fire was a mutual aid response to the Black Hawk Fire Department area that was reportedly the result of a lightning strike.

The storm that brought lightning and hail to parts of the area also resulted in a rise in flows in Rapid Creek. Shortly after the storm, Stations 1, 2 and 3 as well as officers from the Rapid City Police Department responded to a report of a female trapped in Rapid Creek near Legacy Commons. A caller reported that a female lost her footing, was carried downstream a short distance and was unable to get out of the creek. A few short moments after arriving on scene, Officers Dalton Gustafson and Dylan Schieffer spotted the victim who was partially submerged and struggling to get out of the water. Her exit was complicated by steep, wet banks. The officers grabbed the woman and pulled her to safety. The victim was in the cold, fast-moving water for as long as 30 minutes before her rescue. She was transported to Monument Health- Rapid City Hospital for evaluation.

Another dumpster fire was reported behind Hobby Lobby on E. Disk Drive at 9:01 pm. Station 7 and Station 1 crews found a bundle of compressed cardboard burning. The fire was quickly extinguished without any damage to the building and with no injuries reported.

Dumpster Fires

In calendar year 2019, the RCFD responded to a total of 11 dumpster fires. Since April 1, 2020 we have responded to 16. Many of these fires have been occurring in the same geographic area. Dumpster fires can be problematic for a few reasons. One reason is their general proximity to buildings, vehicles and other exposures such as fences. Because of the availability of combustible material, dumpster fires burn quickly and have the potential to spread to nearby exposures. The other issue is that it can be anyone's guess as to what the dumpster contains. This can pose a safety threat to bystanders and firefighters extinguishing the fire.

Setting fire to dumpsters can be a sign of bigger problems such as behavioral issues or a mental health crisis. Those that set these fires often escalate their fire-setting behavior which can be a threat to the safety of the community. Our Fire and Life Safety Division reports that there is surveillance video of some of these fires being intentionally set. We are currently working with the public and law enforcement to identify these individuals and hold them accountable and get them the mental health services that they may need.
Above: A map showing the location of fires that occurred July 3, 4 and 5. Not pictured are some of the mutual aid responses outside of the city.



Comparison

It's tough to compare the call volume during this years holiday to years past. The Fourth of July weekend truly fell on a weekend this year with the holiday falling during the week in the last four years. An apples to apples comparison of July 3, 4 and 5 breaks down like this:

2020
Total Calls: 204
Fires: 25

2019
Total Calls: 170
Fires: 4

2018
Total Calls: 171
Fires: 4

2017
Total Calls: 158
Fires: 13

2016
Total Calls: 151
Fires: 7

Low fire numbers in 2017 and 2018 can be attributed to higher than average moisture. In 2019 we saw more water related rescues over this same time period than we saw fires. Fireworks related injuries appear to remain about the same this year as in the last four years.

Over the course of the next day or so, we will evaluate the call volumes and call types and try to learn what we can do better next year. Changes may include better messaging and information ahead of the holiday in order to encourage safe behavior. Changes may also include increased or different staffing models.

For questions or comment related to the information provided above, please contact Jim Bussell, Public Information Officer for the Rapid City Fire Department, at (605)-394-4180.

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Thursday, June 18, 2020

Four of Rapid City's Bravest Retire



Rapid City, S.D. - Today we bid four of our absolute finest a fond farewell as they retire from the Rapid City Fire Department with a combined 111 years of experience. Each of them will tell you that, if they did their job right, no one will notice their departure. They'll tell you that, through training and mentoring those below them, no one should notice "a ripple in the pool" because their replacements will step in and do a great job. With all due respect, I regret to inform them that we'll notice. We will most certainly notice. The general public may not, but we certainly will. 

Captain Joe Tjaden


Joe Tjaden started his career with the Rapid City Fire Department on August 1, 1998. In 2000, Joe became a Paramedic after attending an intense, 6-month course through Swedish Hospital in Denver, CO. He promoted to Captain on June 1, 2011. Joe is one of the most well-known and respected instructors in the area. Each year he teaches a number of classes ranging from EMS to Hazardous Materials to wildland fire. Joe is a highly qualified wildland firefighter with a wealth of experience in several roles and currently serves as a Structural Protection Specialist with the Rocky Mountain Area Type 2 Incident Management  Team- Blue. Most recently, Captain Tjaden was assigned to Station 6 and lead the Rapid City/Pennington County Hazardous Materials Emergency Response Team (Hazmat). His knowledge and experience have been a tremendous asset for the last 22 years. 

While we will miss Joe here at the Rapid City Fire Department, we will have the opportunity to work with Joe as he will continue to serve as Fire Chief at the Rapid Valley Volunteer Fire Department where he has been active since 1994. Joe's dedication to the fire service and his dedication to education and training is unsurpassed. Ask almost any firefighter in the Black Hills and they'll likely say that they have benefited from Joe's knowledge, tutelage, and experience in one way or another. 

Training Section Chief Matt Culberson


Beginning his career on May 7, 1990, Matt established himself as the consummate "whatever the department needs" kind of guy. In September 2000, Matt promoted to Lieutenant and was stationed at Rapid City Regional Airport's Fire Station 8. With expertise in the area of hazardous materials, Chief Matt was a fixture as a member of the Hazmat team and was promoted to Captain at Station 6 on September 1, 2009. Matt relished the opportunity to excel in any role and viewed each role as an opportunity to help make the organization better. On January 1, 2014, he stepped into the challenging role of Training Section Chief.

As Training Section Chief, Matt was tasked with overseeing the delivery of global training. While in that position, he helped bring Target Solutions to the department. He helped develop the Fire Training Specialist and EMS Training Specialist positions which further enhanced the ability of the Training Section to deliver high-quality education to our members. Chief Matt reports that a long to-do list awaits him in retirement. He is looking forward to completing tasks around his home, enjoying new hobbies and spending more time with his family. 

Battalion Chief Tim Daly


Tim Daly is currently the longest-tenured member of the department having started his RCFD career on October 2, 1986. His career in EMS dates back to July of 1979 when he began working for the Rapid City/Pennington County Ambulance Service. Chief Daly is among the most respected and best-known individuals in the history of the organization. He has an incredibly strong background in wildland firefighting and is the last active member of our department to have fought the Westberry Trails Fire. For 34 years, Chief Daly has dedicated himself to being the best and most well-rounded firefighter possible. He was promoted to Lieutenant in 1995, Captain in 1999, and Battalion Chief on April 1, 2010. 

While his career with the Rapid City Fire Department is coming to a close, his fire service career will continue. Chief Daly will continue to work intermittently at the United States Forest Service where he has worked since 2003 and will continue his role as an Operations Section Chief trainee with the Rocky Mountain Area Type 1 Incident Management Team. With his retirement, Chief Daly will now have the opportunity to spend more time with his family, his three grandchildren in particular. 

Fire Chief Rod Seals


Throughout his 25 year career, Rod Seals has held rank at every level of the department. This speaks to his talent, knowledge, and dedication to our profession. Rod is highly trained in the area of technical rescue with particular expertise in the area of water rescue. He was promoted to Lieutenant on January 1, 2007, with a focus in the area of training. Three years to the day later, he was promoted to Captain taking over duties and responsibilities at the Airport Fire Station. After a brief stop at Station 8, Seals became the C-Shift Battalion Chief on November 1, 2010. He remained in that role until he was promoted to Deputy Fire Chief in 2015. 


With the retirement of then-Fire Chief Mike Maltaverne on January 1, 2017, Chief Seals was named Interim Fire Chief by Mayor Steve Allender. Chief Seals retained the interim role for twelve months and fifteen days until he was selected by Mayor Allender to become the 18th Fire Chief in the history of the Rapid City Fire Department on January 16, 2018. During his time as Chief, Seals has established himself as a highly respected leader of the organization. His legacy will include the establishment of an employee-led mental health initiative and the development of a training facility, among many other noteworthy achievements and accomplishments. A talented welder, Chief Seals hopes to devote time to renew his passion for welding and looks forward to spending time with his wife and two children. 

It should be noted that these four outstanding and devoted individuals have chosen to retire at this time as a way to continue to serve the citizens of our community. Their decision to retire helps stave off potential future layoffs as a result of budget concerns. By choosing to step aside, they have paved the way for others to continue their careers. Should our department have the opportunity to hire new employees, their decision to retire opens the door for others to begin their careers. These four exemplify servant leadership and what it means to lead from the front.

On a personal note, I have spent a great deal of time pondering these retirements and what it means for our department. Each one of us is fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with these gentlemen. Each one of us is better for having had the chance to learn from the four of them. Each member of our department also has a weighty responsibility to continue to carry on their legacy of excellence and leadership.

It’s been an absolute pleasure, fellas. Congratulations on your much deserved, hard-earned retirement, and most importantly, thank you on behalf of each and every one of us.

-Lt. Bussell


Saturday, May 16, 2020


Fire Chief Rod Seals Announces Retirement

Retirement effective June 19, 2020


Rapid City, S.D. – On Friday afternoon, Fire Chief Rod Seals announced to the members of the Rapid City Fire Department his intent to retire, effective June 19, 2020. His retirement will mark the end of a 25-year career. Seals delivered a letter indicating his intent to retire to Mayor Steve Allender on May 14. 

Rod Seals was appointed by Mayor Allender to serve as the 18th Fire Chief in the history of the Rapid City Fire Department on January 12, 2018. He was sworn-in to the position on January 16, 2018. During his 25-year career, Seals has served in several capacities. He was a member of the RCFD Specialty Rescue Team, Captain at Fire Station 8 at the Rapid City Regional Airport, Battalion Chief, Fire Operations Chief, and served as interim Fire Chief after the retirement of Mike Maltaverne.

In his letter to Mayor Allender, Seals acknowledged that budget concerns were the catalyst behind his decision to retire in the coming weeks. “The forecasted budget ‘crisis’ has me very concerned”, he wrote. “And since I am the highest-paid city employee that is eligible to retire, not doing so would be hypocritical on my part, especially when given orders to encourage those that can retire to do so in order to lessen our payroll expenses”, Seals continued. Seals said that he hopes that, through his retirement, money will be saved that “will help to stave off any potential future layoffs of employees.”

IAFF Local 1040 President Ryan Marcks said that he appreciates Seals’ leadership. “Chief Seals has been a tremendous leader for our organization”, Marcks said. “He was a great leader as the President of our Union early-on in his career and he’s been a great leader as Fire Chief. We especially appreciate his leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic. I think it is very, very admirable that his decision to retire is driven by protecting the jobs of other employees”.

Seals wrote that his retirement decision is bittersweet, but that he looks forward to seeing the growth and success of the department into the future. “There are many smart and talented people that work for the Rapid City Fire Department”, he said. “Their collective strength is the backbone to the service we provide the community”.

For questions or comment related to this release, please contact Jim Bussell, Public Information Officer for the Rapid City Fire Department, at 605-394-4180.

Above: Fire Chief Rod Seals


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Monday, April 20, 2020


Sprinkler System Stops General Beadle Fire


Rapid City, S.D. - Just before noon today, Truck 1 was dispatched to 10 Van Buren Street at General Beadle Elementary for an automatic fire alarm. As the crew was arriving on-scene, Pennington County 9-1-1 dispatch advised that a caller was reporting an active fire in the kitchen. A full first alarm response for a commercial structure fire was dispatched. That alarm included additional units from Station 1 as well as Stations 3 and 7.

Once inside, Truck 1 found that there had been a fire on the stove in the kitchen. The fire was extinguished by the commercial hood system as well as a single sprinkler head from the fire sprinkler system. The full first alarm assignment was canceled while Truck 1 remained on-scene.

The building was occupied at the time of the fire by Rapid City Area Schools personnel who were making and distributing lunches. The Rapid City Community Health office was also open and operating at the time of the fire. No injuries were reported and occupants safely and quickly evacuated.

The fire was confined to the stove area. Smoke was quickly cleared by firefighters who also assisted with clean-up of water from the sprinkler system.

An investigator from the Rapid City Fire Department determined that the fire was accidental. Boxes used for lunch distribution nearby the stove caught fire and were quickly extinguished by the sprinkler and hood systems. The fire should not negatively impact ongoing lunch distribution.

“The sprinkler system did exactly what it was designed to do”, said Lt. Brian Staton with the Rapid City Fire Department’s Fire and Life Safety Division. “Only the number of heads needed to put the fire out were activated. Instead of dealing with a big fire, we’re squeegeeing up water”.

The Rapid City Fire Department advocates for fire sprinkler protection, especially in large, public occupancies. A large fire in a facility like General Beadle could have been catastrophic. A large fire would likely have disrupted lunch distribution to children and families in need, displaced healthcare resources, and negatively impacted the ability to deliver education to several hundred students. Instead, the fire was quickly doused.

For questions or comment regarding this release, please contact Jim Bussell, Public Information Officer for the Rapid City Fire Department, at the information provided above and below.

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Monday, February 3, 2020




High School Fire Ops 101



High School Fire Ops 101 is a program offered by the Rapid City Fire Department to engage high school students by providing them with an up-close opportunity to learn more about our organization and profession. The program is designed to accomplish three main goals:
  1. Educate students about their community fire department and the fire service, in general.
  2. Encourage safe habits and empower participants to become partners in providing for a safer community.
  3. Provide participants with information on how to pursue a career in fire and emergency services and educate them on the many career paths available.


We will achieve our goals by providing participants with several hands-on and classroom-based activities that cover a broad range of areas including:

-History of the Fire Service
-Organization of the Rapid City Fire Department
-Introduction to Structural Firefighting
-Emergency Medical Services
-Introduction to Wildland Firefighting
- Hazardous Materials and Weapons of Mass Destruction Response
-Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting
-Vehicle Extrication



Requirements:
Students must be at least 16 years of age on the first day of the program. They must be currently enrolled in a local high-school, in good academic standing, and complete the application process. Students must provide at least one letter of recommendation from a teacher, administrator, or counselor. Students that are selected for the program must have signed parental consent if under the age of 18.

The program will be limited to 12 student-participants and one member of the local media. The Spring 2020 offering of the course will be held on March 20, April 3, and April 17. The class will meet each day at RCFD Station 1, located at 10 Main Street in Downtown Rapid City. The program will begin promptly at 8:30 am each day and will conclude at 4:00 pm. A graduation ceremony will take place on April 17 at 4:30 pm at Rapid City Fire Station 1.

The High School Fire Ops 101 Application can be found below.

The application period for the Spring 2020 offering of High School Fire Ops 101 closes at 4:00 pm on February 21, 2020.

For questions regarding this program, please contact Lt. Jim Bussell at 605-394-4180.





Monday, January 27, 2020


 RCFD to Conduct Ice Rescue Training at Canyon Lake Park

Training runs through Thursday afternoon



Rapid City, S.D. – Beginning at 10:00 am on Tuesday, Rapid City Firefighters will participate in ice rescue training at Canyon Lake Park in western Rapid City. The training will be conducted Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday and will conclude at around 4:00 pm each day. All on-duty RCFD resources will participate in the training and drills.

Ice rescue training is conducted annually to ensure that each member of the department has the skills necessary to perform an ice rescue. In December of 2018, firefighters from Stations 1 and 3 rescued two men from the icy waters of Memorial Pond. The rescue was conducted quickly and efficiently which is a direct result of frequent training.

The training will be clearly visible to those in and around Canyon Lake Park. Visitors to the park and motorists nearby should anticipate a large amount of emergency vehicle traffic in the area. The park will remain open during the training. Members of the public are invited to view the training from sidewalk areas nearby but are asked to avoid entering the training area. Signage will be in place to notify park visitors of the training area boundaries.

For questions or comment regarding this advisory, please contact Jim Bussell, Public Information Officer for the Rapid City Fire Department, at 605-394-4180.

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Monday, January 20, 2020

Seven Begin RCFD Paramedic Training Program

Program consists of 1,300 hours in just under 11 months



Rapid City, S.D. - Six employees of the Rapid City Fire Department and one member of Sturgis Fire and Emergency Services began the intense, eleven-month long Rapid City Fire Department Paramedic Education Academy last week. The program, which consists of nearly 1,300 hours of classroom and clinical education, will culminate with final testing in November. 

The RCFD Paramedic Education Academy was awarded initial accreditation by the Board of Directors of the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) in August of 2019. The CAAHEP Board acted upon the accreditation recommendation of the Committee on Accreditation of Educational Programs for the Emergency Medical Services Professions (CoAEMSP). The RCFD stands as one of only a few fire departments in the country to have its own, in-house accredited Paramedic education program.

Once the students complete the program, they will be certified in areas such as Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS), Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS), Advanced Medical Life Support (AMLS), and Pre-Hospital Trauma Life Support (PHTLS). Individuals that complete the program and pass the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) psychomotor and cognitive exams then must successfully become licensed with the South Dakota Board of Medical and Osteopathic Examiners (SDBMOE) before beginning an intense months-long Paramedic Field Training and Evaluation Program.

The department began providing Paramedic education for RCFD employees in 2016 after it was granted a Letter of Review by the CAAHEP. Since that time, 12 RCFD employees have completed the program with a 100% pass rate.

The course is led by EMS Training Specialist/Paramedic Lt. Jason Reitz. In an August 2019 interview, Lt. Reitz said of the program, “Having a program that can continually meet the demands of the Rapid City Fire Department and the community we serve is so important.” Reitz added that the importance of having quality Paramedics and a solid EMS system is important to both residents of Rapid City and the surrounding area, but to the traveling public as well.

The Rapid City Fire Department continues to see an increase in demand for Emergency Medical Services each year. In 2019 the RCFD responded to over 18,000 calls for service, a new record for the department. Of those calls for service, over 16,000 were EMS related, a 7 percent increase over 2018.

For questions or comments related to this release, please contact Jim Bussell, Public Information Officer for the Rapid City Fire Department, at 605-394-4180.

Rapid City Fire Department Paramedic Education Academy students, left to right:
Journeyman Firefighter/Medic Josh Kusser, Firefighter/Medic Steven Gilbert, Firefighter/Medic Kyle Steen, Firefighter/Medic Cory Eberle, Firefighter/Medic Karin Shoemaker, Journeyman Firefighter/Medic Dustin Larsen and Sturgis Ambulance Service EMT Heidi Schulz.


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