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:
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.
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.
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.
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.|
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:
Total Calls: 204
Total Calls: 170
Total Calls: 171
Total Calls: 158
Total Calls: 151
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.