Firefighters knock out Rapid City house fire despite cold temperatures

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At 12:37 p.m. on New Years Day, Pennington County 911 dispatched units from four Rapid City Fire Department stations to a report of a structure fire at 3515 Western Ave.

Lt. Jim Bussell with the Rapid City Fire Department said the first crew was on scene within four minutes.

"Fire Station 5 is just two blocks down the street," Bussell said. "They were on scene very quickly and reported heavy smoke coming from the back of the structure. They initiated an attack very, very quickly. They were able to get the main fire knocked down after arriving on scene."

Firefighters found a fire that appeared to have originated within the fireplace and chimney system and had spread into the attic. But the cause is still under investigation.

No human occupants were home at the time of the fire, but the family dog was inside. Firefighter/Paramedic Brett Morton and Firefighter/Medic Chris Drew were able to rescue the dog, who was then taken to the safety of a neighbor's home by officers from the Rapid City Police Department.

The home sustained significant exterior damage as well as significant smoke damage. The American Red Cross serving Central and Western South Dakota was on scene to assist the occupants with immediate needs.

Bussell says that firefighters dealt with temperatures hovering near zero throughout most of the day. And in cold temperatures like these, situations only become more problematic. 

"The main element that we use to fight fire is water, and that causes a litany of issues," Bussell said. "Nothing is easy when it's this cold." 

Pumps, appliances, hoses and nozzles must continuously have water flowing through them so they don't freeze. Water creating "slip, trip and fall" hazards also becomes a major concern. The added weight the ice puts on unstable structures is also worrisome.

Pennington County Search and Rescue came to the scene to provide a warming trailer to assist with firefighter rehabilitation. The Whispering Pines Fire Department was on scene to assist with refilling breathing apparatus and fireground support.

The Rapid City Police Department, Pennington County Fire Administrator, Montana Dakota Utilities and Black Hills Energy all provided assistance with the incident.

Crews are still on scene checking for hot spots and picking up hoses and equipment. Residents and motorists in the area should be alert for slippery street and sidewalk surfaces as a result of the firefighting effort. Rapid City Public Works has been notified and a sand truck has been requested to assist in sanding icy surfaces.

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