Monday, December 26, 2016

Rapid City Fire Department Hagglunds Sees Blizzard Action

RCFD Crew Uses Vehicle for I-90 Rescues

Rapid City, S.D. - Fifteen people and four dogs are safe in Rapid City after being stranded on I-90 about 4 miles west of Wicksville, S.D. during a Christmas blizzard. The individuals and their pets were rescued by a two-person crew from the Rapid City Fire Department in a vehicle purchased to bolster blizzard response.

Around 11 pm Christmas night, the Rapid City Fire Department was requested to assist in an area where approximately one dozen vehicles had become stranded as a result of the storm. With Pennington County Search and Rescue already working in an area east of Wall, S.D., an additional tracked rescue vehicle was needed. 

Within about 15 minutes of the request, the Hagglunds and it's crew- Firefighter/Medic Jason Fields and Firefighter/Paramedic Francis Bierman- set out for the area near mile-marker 86. "We loaded up medical supplies, basically since we really didn't have much information or know what we would find," said Bierman, a 7-year veteran of the RCFD. Bierman said, "We took about 20 blankets with us and headed out. It took us about an hour-and-a-half to get there which was way less than we thought it would take."

As the duo encountered stranded vehicles, they would stop to make sure they were not occupied. When they arrived in the area of mile-marker 86, they found a number of vehicles stranded. "It was tough to tell how many vehicles were there," Bierman said in a phone interview. Bierman added, "Visibility was pretty bad at that point." The stranded vehicles included passenger cars, semi-trucks and even snowplows. "The semi-truck drivers wanted to stay with their vehicles," Bierman said. "They were set-up fine and just wanted to wait for the roads to open. The other cars were in worse shape. It was so windy and cold. A lot of them would have run out of fuel by the time anyone got to them".

Bierman and Fields were able to rescue 15 people and 4 dogs from the area. "We took a poll and everyone wanted to come back to Rapid", Bierman said. "Everyone got along really well- including the dogs, which made me happy- so we got turned around and headed back". Bierman said that the Hagglunds rode much smoother than anticipated. He said that the ability to travel in ditches and medians was of huge benefit. The RCFD crew dropped off their passengers and returned to their station around 3:30 am.

Bierman and Fields started their 24-hour shift on Sunday riding Truck 1. Throughout the course of the day, the crew ran a number of fire-alarms and medical calls. The day was busy tracking and preparing for the storm and- after snow began to fall- removing snow from around the station. After a 24-hour shift with little rest, Bierman was looking forward to some sleep. "I'm going to go home and try and get a nap," he said. "It was a pretty long day."

The Rapid City Fire Department purchased the Hagglunds BV206 vehicle in 2014 after the organizations Command Staff reviewed response to Winter Storm Atlas that pummeled the area in early October of 2013. During that storm, mobility and the ability to rescue multiple individuals at one time were glaring issues. Those difficulties were not noted only during Atlas, but also during other past winter storms. The Hagglunds was purchased to solve those issues. Able to transport up to 17 people, the Hagglunds is adaptive to multiple surfaces and terrains.

On Sunday, the decision to purchase the Hagglunds and follow the RCFD Mission of "Prepare, Prevent, Protect" payed dividends. Early Monday morning, the Rapid City Fire Department received a message from a grateful individual via social media. "I can not thank you enough for coming to the rescue," the post reads. "Time was of the essence! Your hard work and dedication is appreciated!!"

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

Firefighter/Paramedic Bierman (L) and Firefighter/Medic Fields (R) after returning from their mission.

The RCFD Hagglunds BV206

Fields and Bierman fuel up after returning from the Wicksville area. The vehicle is ready for the next storm.


Friday, December 23, 2016

What Are You Doing New Years Eve?

If it involves fireworks, here's what you should know:

According to State law and County ordinance, fireworks may be discharged from December 28 through January 1 provided that the grassland fire danger is not in the "Very High" or "Extreme" category.

Learn more about these ordinances and discharge of fireworks by visiting Pennington County's website or the City of Rapid City website.

As always, remember that discharge of fireworks is not allowed in certain areas. Please learn about regulations specific to your community before discharge of fireworks.

Friday, December 16, 2016

RCFD Cold Weather Operations

"Prepare, Prevent, Protect" No Matter What the Temperature Is

By Jim Bussell- RCFD Public Information Officer

Rapid City, S.D. - Just like most everyone in Western South Dakota, we keep a really close eye on the weather. The weather is one of the factors that plays a major role in what we do and how we do it. For our organization, there is no such thing as a "snow day". Generally, it seems that when the weather is bad, we get busier. There isn't one single factor that we can point to. I'm not even certain that there is data to support that statement. Simply put, though, it feels like when the weather turns, so too does the call volume. Or, at least, the complexity of calls seems to change a little bit.

Ask a Paramedic that has been around for awhile and they will tell you that they've delivered more babies in snow storms than fair weather days. Many of our firefighters will recall that some of the most memorable fires have happened in extreme cold. When the weather is at it's worst, the Rapid City Fire Department is at it's best.

A common question from many people is; "What do you, as a department, do to prepare for cold weather?" For the Rapid City Fire Department, cold-weather operations and preparation for inclement weather takes place on many fronts.

At a personal level, most firefighters prepare for the cold weather season well ahead of time. On duty days, it's not uncommon to see back-packs or bags of all shapes and sizes riding on the apparatus. Among the items our firefighters carry, extra gloves, socks, stocking hats and, on occasion, goggles of some sort. Because none of us knows where duty may take us throughout the course of a shift, we must be ready for just about anything. During cold weather, staying dry is a key component to keeping warm and being able to function at a high level.

Every morning, Rapid City Firefighters participate in a shift briefing. This briefing helps lay out the framework for the day but also serves as an opportunity to increase situational awareness with regard to the weather. This morning, crews reviewed operation of the Hagglunds vehicle and will spend time reviewing how to chain up fire apparatus should the conditions require it. The big conversation this morning regarding this particular storm has centered around the dangerous cold.

When you are in the business of emergency response during poor winter weather, nothing comes easy. A task like moving a patient from a home to an ambulance requires planning. Our employees take a great deal of care ensuring that patients are moved in and out of the elements as quickly and safely as possible while, at the same time, ensuring that they remain as comfortable as possible. This is not always easily done.

Everything requires careful thought in inclement winter weather conditions. Parking a fire apparatus for long periods of time can be problematic. The driver/operator must put the engine or truck in pump gear to ensure water circulates through the pump to prevent the pump from freezing up. If we have a fire, nozzles must be kept slightly open to ensure water flow so that the nozzles and hoses don't freeze solid. Hose-lines are not easily manipulated or moved. Fittings used to connect to fire hydrants frequently freeze to the hydrant and the hydrant itself may need to be attended to by the Water Department. This doesn't begin to address issues caused by the water used to fight the fire freezing and creating an additional weight hazard and causing hazardous footing conditions.

Long story short, your Rapid City Fire Department is always ready and proud to serve no matter what the weather brings. The cold and snow do bring additional challenges that we are prepared to meet, even when the thermometer drops around or below zero. Please do us a favor and help keep fire hydrants unobstructed and clear of snow. Be safe with ignition sources and do your part to ensure that we don't have to fight fire in this weather. Stay safe and enjoy your snow day, Rapid City. 

For questions  or comments regarding this release, please contact RCFD Public Information Officer Jim Bussell at (605)-394-4180.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

RCFD Veteran Wildfire Mitigation Crew Plans to Burn Slash Piles
Prescribed burning dependent on snow cover

Rapid City, S.D. – The Rapid City Fire Department plans to conduct slash-pile burning in the Skyline Drive area of Rapid City beginning Friday and continuing Monday. The burning will depend on snow cover from a snow storm that is to affect the area later this week. Should the snowfall totals fall short of forecast amounts, the burning will be postponed.

The pile burning will be conducted by the Rapid City Fire Department Veteran Wildfire Mitigation Crew under the direction of Lt. Tim Weaver. In a statement, Lt. Weaver said; “These piles are being burned as a continuation of the wildland fire hazardous fuel reduction project in the Skyline Wilderness Park that has taken place over the past 2 years.” Weaver went on to say; “This hazardous fuel reduction project exemplifies the Rapid City Fire Department’s desire to create fire resilient landscapes with in the city limits in areas that are at risk for catastrophic wildfire behavior. This is part of our Survivable Space Initiative which helps landowners in Rapid City create fire adapted landscapes on their property.”

Smoke and flames will be visible clearly from the area of the burning operation. Smoke may linger for several days after the piles burn down. The RCFD Veteran Wildfire Mitigation Crew will continue to monitor the area in the days following the project. Please DO NOT call 9-1-1 to report the burning piles.

For more information on the prescribed burning, please contact Lt. Tim Weaver at (605)-394-5233 or at (605)-390-4114.