Thursday, September 7, 2017

Afternoon Fire Heavily Damages Southwest Rapid City Home

Rapid City, S.D. - Just before 4:20 pm, multiple companies from the Rapid City Fire Department as well as the Whispering Pines Fire Department were dispatched to a report of a structure fire at 6835 Sahalee Dr. At the time of dispatch, Pennington County 9-1-1 had received multiple calls reporting the fire. In addition to the numerous 9-1-1 calls, Rapid City Fire Headquarters also received a flurry of calls reporting the fire. A very large, dark column of smoke was clearly visible from all areas of Rapid City.

When crews from Fire Station 6 arrived on scene, they reported a single family dwelling that was heavily involved in fire. The fire was threatening an adjacent structure. Crews were able to quickly begin applying water to the fire  in the building of origin and protecting the adjacent structure simultaneously. Fire Engine 5 arrived shortly after Engine 6 and was able to obtain a water supply from a nearby hydrant.

The main fire was knocked down by 5 pm. Crews were able to locate and extinguish many hot spots by about 7:30 pm. A Rapid City Fire Department crew will remain on scene well into the night to ensure no additional hot spots flare up. An adjacent structure sustained minor damage as a result of radiant heat from the building of origin.

No one was home at the time of the fire and there were no injuries to civilians. A number of family pets did not survive the fire and a number of others are unaccounted for at the time of this release. One firefighter was treated for heat related illness.

The cause of the fire is under investigation by the Rapid City Fire Department Fire and Life Safety Division. The American Red Cross serving Central and Western South Dakota was on scene to provide assistance to the displaced occupants.

The RCFD would like to thank Pennington County Fire, the Whispering Pines Fire Department, the North Haines Fire Department, Montana Dakota Utilities, Black Hills Energy, and the Rapid City Police Department and Pennington County 9-1-1 Communications for their prompt, professional assistance with today's fire.

The RCFD would like to take the opportunity to remind the public that unnecessary traffic in the area of an emergency scene can create difficulty for responders. While we understand that many times there is a good deal of public interest in incidents such as a building fire, that interest can hinder emergency response. In the event of such an emergency, please choose an alternate route if possible or avoid the area until the response is completed to allow responders to easily navigate the area around the scene.

An update regarding this incident is not anticipated at this time. Please contact Lt. Jim Bussell, Public Information Officer with the Rapid City Fire Department, at (605)-394-4180 for questions or comment related to this release.


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Update on Crash Involving RCFD Ambulance

Drivers reminded to yield to emergency vehicles

Rapid City, S.D. – The crash that occurred yesterday at 5th and Omaha Streets involving a Rapid City Fire Department ambulance was investigated by the Rapid City Police Department. According to the RCPD:

The ambulance was westbound on Omaha Street with its emergency lights and sirens activated. As the ambulance approached the intersection with 5th street, it encountered several vehicles stopped at the intersection in the through lanes of traffic. In order to make its way through the intersection, it stopped in the left-hand turn lanes, made sure traffic was clear of the intersection, and proceeded with a right turn to go north on 5th street. As it did so, a passenger vehicle in one of the westbound through lanes on Omaha Street attempted to continue straight through the intersection. The passenger vehicle struck the passenger side of the ambulance. The driver of this vehicle was cited for Failure to Yield to an Emergency Vehicle.

Both Rapid City Fire Department Paramedics involved in the crash were transported to Rapid City Regional Hospital. They were evaluated and released.

As a reminder, the Rapid City Fire Department will take this opportunity to remind the public to come to a complete stop when encountering emergency vehicles with their lights and siren activated. Where reasonably possible, pull to the right and stop when you see flashing emergency lights or hear a siren. Come to a complete stop and wait until the emergency vehicle has passed. 

For questions related to this release, please contact the Rapid City Fire Department Public Information Officer at (605)-394-4180.


Monday, August 28, 2017

RCFD Ambulance Involved in Crash

Rapid City, S.D. – Just before 11 am this morning a Rapid City Fire Department ambulance was responding to a medical emergency in north Rapid City when it was involved in a crash. The ambulance and crew, whose call sign is Medic 1, was traveling west on Omaha Street toward 5th St. The ambulance and crew were in the inside westbound lane and had come to a stop in preparation to make a right hand turn to go north on 5th St. A vehicle traveling west collided with the ambulance in the intersection. The ambulance was impacted in the front passenger door. The impact temporarily trapped the Paramedic in the passenger seat.

The crew, despite the collision, remained calm and immediately requested that an ambulance respond to the initial 9-1-1 call for service. Units responding to the crash scene were quickly able to access both medics and begin treatment as well as attend to the occupant of the other vehicle. Three individuals were transported to a local hospital including both crew members of Medic 1. All three individuals sustained non-life threatening injuries.

The Rapid City Police Department is investigating the circumstances surrounding the crash. The specific details are not available at this time. A reserve ambulance from the RCFD fleet has already been brought in and is staffed with an Advanced Life Support Crew.

The Rapid City Fire Department would like to take this opportunity to remind the public to come to a complete stop when encountering emergency vehicles with their lights and siren activated. Where reasonably possible, pull to the right and stop when you see flashing emergency lights or hear a siren. Come to a complete stop and wait until the emergency vehicle has passed.

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


Friday, August 25, 2017

Ode to a Fire Engine, or Something Like That

by Lt. Jim Bussell, Public Information Officer

"I can think of no more stirring symbol of man's humanity to man than a fire truck."
-Kurt Vonnegut

In the fire service retirements are a big deal. They should be. A fire service retirement is generally significant but never more so than when a member of the department retires after a long and distinguished career. Because of the nature of the job, the arduous physical demands placed on the member, and the exposure to a litany of hazards, a long career is an achievement to be celebrated. These celebrated retirements are not exclusive to firefighters but to fire apparatus as well. In fact, there are occasions in which the retirement of an apparatus may be far more poignant and emotional than that of a firefighter. That is certainly how I feel about the retirement of Engine 3.

It is my humble opinion that Vonnegut's observation regarding the emotions evoked when one sees a fire engine is accurate. I think this is especially the case for the firefighter. I believe that there are very few, if any, things in this world that stimulate the wide range of feelings and emotions that I experience when I see a fire apparatus rolling down the street. After sixteen years in the fire service and thirteen years with the Rapid City Fire Department, I still swell with pride when I see one of our engines or trucks with her lights flashing and siren wailing. "My" truck and "my" firefighters, doing something I've seen and participated in thousands of times, still, and to this day, will stop me in my tracks. For anyone who has never experienced the fire service from our side, what I just attempted to convey may not make sense.

So, it is for the reasons I pointed out a moment ago, that the retirement of a fire apparatus is a big deal. For many firefighters, as it was the case for me, the fire service is by-and-large responsible for maturation and growth sufficient to truly deliver one into adulthood. The fire engine is central to that delivery. The fire engine carries us to many of the experiences that help to cultivate growth and maturation. When those stories are recounted later on, they almost invariably begin with, "I was on Engine (insert number here)". While the people and human relationships and interactions are so very important to the fire service, it's the fire engine that is the focal point.
I was hired by the Rapid City Fire Department in 2004. My first station and shift assignment was Station 3 on C Shift. 
Above: Station 3, C Shift crew, December 2004
Pictured, L to R: Firefighter/Paramedic Casey Warren (Ret.), Firefighter/Medic Bill Reishus (Ret.), Lt. Joe Gilles (currently the Captain at Fire Station 8), Firefighter/Medic Mark Raderschadt (currently the C Shift Lieutenant at Station 1), and myself.

Our fire engine at Station 3 was the oldest one in the fleet. It reminded me of a line from the AC/DC song Whole Lotta Rosie; "She ain't exactly pretty. Ain't exactly small". Engine 3 was a 1987 Pierce Arrow and, in 2004, was already 17 years old. It was easily identifiable because of its color, bright yellow. Back in the 1980's, many fire departments went to yellow as a primary color for fire engines because they felt it added a measure of visibility. The Rapid City Fire Department also adopted this idea and went to yellow fire engines until around 1993 when our organization again went back to purchasing traditional red fire engines. When I hit the floor in 2004, Engine 3 and a reserve engine at Station 1 were the last remaining yellow engines in the RCFD fleet.

I had a love/hate relationship with our engine. I was profoundly grateful for the chance to ride in a fire engine that said "Rapid City" on the side. It had an open cab back and only a seat-belt and safety bar separated the rear-facing firefighter from the pavement. During the summer I loved the open cab. During the winter I hated it. There wasn't a lot of storage room in Engine 3. Medical gear was stored in an outside compartment. If you were in the back seat, there was no room for turnout gear when you weren't wearing them. It was loud and fairly uncomfortable. But, man, that engine could pump water. 

A huge part of a driver/operators job is to operate the pump. Learning to operate the pump often proves to be a difficult topic for many firefighters. The ability to proficiently pump water on a fire is truly one that could mean the difference between saving a building or losing a building. That skill is also one that could be the difference between life and death. One thing was always for certain: If water wasn't coming out of Engine 3, it had to be operator error. There was no two-ways about it. The water pump on Engine 3 was about as reliable as you would ever find on a fire engine. It never failed a pump test in 30 years of service. Any operator who learned how to proficiently pump water from that particular engine would certainly be able to proficiently pump water out of any other apparatus that we had.

Engine 3 could also go just about anywhere we needed it to go. It had good clearance, was dependable in the snow and ice, and maneuvered around the hills and streets of West Rapid City without issues. No one that rode in it ever had to wonder if they could get where they needed to go or if the engine could perform once we got there. It wasn't flashy or shiny. It was effective and dependable and it served the citizens of Rapid City well. 

Since 1987, that yellow Pierce Arrow known as Engine 3 has been serving the citizens of the Rapid City area which makes it our second longest tenured "member". In early 2006, it was replaced with a brand new Quint. With the arrival of Quint 3 and its new state-of-the-art technology, Engine 3 was pushed into reserve status. When I think back to the innumerable incidents that it's been part of, several things strike me. The importance of this vehicle to the organization, the firefighters that rode on it, and the community really hit home. Incidents that may not necessarily stand out to our firefighters are sentinel moments in the lives of the people whose emergencies it responded to. Since 1987, water from the pump of Engine 3 was sprayed on many of the biggest fires our city has seen. Engine 3 was on scene at the Sweeney and Federal Beef fires and provided protection for countless structures in and around Rapid City for a number of significant wildland fires just to name a very few. This particular engine was in service during the 1988 Westberry Trails Fire. Time has forgotten more fires that Engine 3 responded to than most of our newest members will ever see.

Earlier this month, the Rapid City Fire Department welcomed a new engine to the fleet which will be housed and run out of Station 7. The new engine has increased storage, a larger motor, and the capability to carry gear to respond to a variety of technical rescue situations. The engine previously housed at Station 7 will move to Station 5 and take the place of a 2001 Pierce that is nearing the end of its service life. With the 2001 engine moving into a reserve role, Old Engine 3 will be forced into retirement. What will become of it, no one is sure at this point. 
Above: The new Engine 7 as during a ceremony to put it in-service. The new Rescue/Pumper will be housed at Station 7 in North Rapid.

To firefighters, the retirement of a fire engine is not generally something that is viewed as simply replacing one vehicle with another. For a select few of us a fire engine becomes more about who we are as people than what we do as firefighters. There is a reason that some cities devote a good deal of space and funding to museums built to memorialize these apparatus. Not everyone shares our sentiments. To some people in the community replacing a fire engine is a necessary evil. It represents an expenditure that they don't necessarily understand. Although Engine 3 has much sentimental value to many of us, the fact remains that it simply became time to replace it.

Parallels can continue to be drawn between firefighters and the fire engines that they ride on. After extended use, abuse and wear and tear, both can become obsolete. In some cases, the career of either may outlast their usefulness. In only a couple short decades, the mission of both the fire service as a whole and the Rapid City Fire Department has changed greatly. Versatility and the ability to respond to any emergency, any place and at any time are key. When Engine 3 was designed and built, firefighters only responded to fires. Response to medical emergencies, hazardous materials events and technical rescues did not come until later on and, certainly for our organization, not in earnest until 1994. Response to these incidents requires more equipment, more versatility and more capabilities than Engine 3 was designed for.

When a member, be they a firefighter or a fire apparatus, becomes unable to function in a versatile role, it becomes time to reevaluate the role the member will play in the organization. Inevitably, the time will come for every firefighter and every fire apparatus to retire and be replaced with a newer, more capable model. In my opinion, the thing that is most impressive is that it took 3 three decades to finally find a replacement suitable for Engine 3. 

For questions related to this post, please contact Lt. Jim Bussell at (605)-394-4180.


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

RCFD Offers Safety Reminder For Bicyclists, Drivers

Three bicycle vs car crashes in 24 hours prompts reminder

Rapid City, S.D. - Between the hours of 2:00 pm Monday and 7:00 am Tuesday, the Rapid City Police and Rapid City Fire Departments have responded to three bicycle vs vehicle crashes that have resulted in injury. Fortunately, none of the injuries sustained by bicyclists have been serious.

The Rapid City Fire Department would like to take the opportunity to remind motorists and bicyclists that safety is a two way street. Both bicyclists and motorists must remain attentive and alert.

Some safety tips for bicyclists include:

-Bicyclists should be prepared before they hit the road. Wear clothing and equipment to make themselves more visible to others. 

-Bicyclists should always wear a bike helmet. 

-Ride defensively, focused and alert. Anticipate what others may do before they do it. Ride with the flow, in the same direction as traffic. Always assume the other person doesn't see you.

-Bicyclists are required by state law to stop before entering the road. Accidents often happen when cyclists enter the street without stopping. Teach your children to always stop and look for cars before entering the street.

Some safety tips for motorists include:

-Yield to bicyclists the same as you would to other motorists and do not underestimate their speed. This will help avoid turning in front of a bicyclist.

-In parking lots, at stop signs, when backing up, or when parking, search your surroundings for other vehicles, including bicycles.

-Give cyclists room. Do not pass too closely. Pass bicyclists as you would and other vehicle- when it's safe to move over into an adjacent lane.

As school for the 2017-2018 school year gets underway, now is a good time to review these simple steps to safely share the road. For more information on bicyclist and motorist safety, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website by clicking here.

For questions related to this release, please contact the Rapid City Fire Department Public Information Officer at (605)-394-4180.


Thursday, August 17, 2017

Not Your Average Citizen Assist

Rapid City, S.D. - Just before 5 pm on Wednesday, Truck 1 from Fire Station 1 was dispatched to the City/School Administration Center (CSAC) building for a citizen assist. An individual with a disability that requires use of a wheelchair was conducting business at the CSAC building on the third floor when the elevator malfunctioned. The individual was not inside of the elevator at the time the malfunction occured. After speaking with the elevator repair technician, firefighters learned that the elevator repair would be a lengthy process. Additionally, because the chair weighed over 500 pounds and because of the configuration of the stairway, there were concerns about having firefighters carry the chair down the stairs and risk injury to the firefighters. The Truck 1 crew, led by Capt. Tom Bielmaier, devised a plan to assist the individual down stairs using a stair chair and to lower the individuals wheelchair to the ground utilizing a rope and pulley system and the aerial ladder on Truck 1.

Capt. Bielmaier enlisted the help of Battalion Chief Tim Daly , Squad 1 led by Firefighter/Medic Nick Phillipe, and Fire Rescue 3 led by Capt. Calen Maningas. With the individual safely on the first floor via the stair chair and Squad 1, the Truck 1 and Rescue 3 crews constructed a rope system utilizing ropes, pulleys, and the aerial ladder. Utilizing the ladder as a crane was not an option as the weight of the chair would damage the ladder. Instead, Rescue 3 crews assembled a system that uses mechanical advantage- identical to a system that they would use in a vertical rescue scenario- and safely lowered the chair to the parking lot.

This event highlights the ingenuity and skill possessed by Rapid City Firefighters. It's also a good reminder that we never know how or when the tools, training and knowledge that our organization possesses will be put to use. This event was a great examplegood inter-departmental communication and the positive working relationship between different City of Rapid City departments.

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

Above: Firefighter Brett Morton completes the harness assembly in order to safely secure the wheelchair for lowering.

Above: Firefighters on the ground use a system of ropes and pulleys to raise the 500-pound wheelchair from the roof.

Above: Firefighter/Paramedic Brett Morton guides the chair as mechanical advantage is used to raise it in the air.

Above: Firefighter Paramedic Brett Morton keeps watch as the chair is lowered to the ground. The 100-foot aerial ladder was used as a change of direction for the rope and pulley system used to lower the chair.

Above: The chair is safely lowered to the ground


Monday, August 14, 2017

Firefighters From Around South Dakota Hone Skills During Rally Week

South Dakota Task Force 1 trains in Rapid City all week.

Rapid City, S.D. - Motorcycle enthusiasts weren’t the only visitors to the Black Hills last week as members of South Dakota Task Force 1 (SDTF-1) spent Rally week in Rapid City to participate in a variety of training exercises. The week-long training kicked off on Monday, August 7 and wrapped up on Friday, August 11.

South Dakota Task Force 1 is comprised of firefighters from the Rapid City Fire Department (RCFD), Sioux Falls Fire Rescue (SFFR), Aberdeen Fire Rescue (AFR) and Watertown Fire Rescue (WFR) and is trained to respond to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive threats. Team members are also trained in specialized rescue techniques including, land-based search, structural collapse, swift water, confined space, high-angle, and rope rescue. 

During the week, Task Force 1 members trained on scenarios that, if presented, could pose a high amount of risk to responders. These high risk, low frequency events require a great deal of technical knowledge and skill.

On Monday, Task Force 1 members participated in a vertical extrication training. The training scenario involved a vehicle that had fallen from an elevated position, such as a cliff, or overpass. A mannequin was placed inside of the vehicle to simulate a victim in need of extrication. In this scenario, crews were not able to access the vehicle from where it came to rest. This necessitated the assembly of a rope system to lower rescuers and extrication equipment. Rescuers were forced to perform the extrication while suspended from rope systems.

On Tuesday, Task Force 1 team members reviewed principles and practices of swiftwater rescue before entering Rapid Creek for scenarios involving a submerged vehicle as well as a trapped kayaker. Students with limited swiftwater rescue experience were able to take advantage of lower-than-normal stream flows in order to better hone their skills.

On Wednesday, new crews from Sioux Falls and Watertown made their way to Rapid City and switched out with members that participated in the training on Monday and Tuesday. Seven members of SDTF-1 assisted local crews with the recovery of a deceased individual at the Hippie Hole area near Keystone, SD on Wednesday morning.

The training continued Thursday and Friday. Crews participated in swiftwater rescue training on Thursday at a remote, undisclosed location on Rapid Creek below Pactola Reservior. On Friday, the new crews had the opportunity to participate in vertical extrication training.

For more on the South Dakota Task Force 1 training, click here to view a story by Tessa Thomas of KEVN Black Hills Fox news.

Above: RCFD Firefighter/Paramedic Steve Keller uses hydraulic spreaders to open a door as part of the extrication process during South Dakota Task Force 1 training on Monday August 7 in Rapid City.

Above: Adam Nusbaum of SFFR (left) and Mike Roemmich of AFR (right) support a simulated victim as part of South Dakota Task Force 1 training in Rapid City on August 7.

Above: Bryan Wientjes of WFR (left) and Darryn Deck of SFFR (right) use hydraulic spreaders to remove the roof of a vehicle during a South Dakota Task Force 1 training exercise in Rapid City on August 7.

Above: Swiftwater Rescue Instructor Hunter Harlan of RCFD (far right) provides instruction on the use of a device known as a Water Curtain during South Dakota Task Force 1 training near Rapid City on August 8. The Water Curtain helps provide a downstream containment option for individuals who may have fallen victim to a swiftwater event.

Above: Members of SFFR prepare to enter the water of Rapid Creek during South Dakota Task Force 1 training near Rapid City on August 8.

For questions related to this article, please contact the Rapid City Fire Department Public Information Officer at (605)-394-4180.