Black Hills Volunteer Fire Departments seek $2 million for new buildings

At a budget proposal on Friday at the Pennington County Commissioner's, four area Volunteer Fire Departments asked for two-million dollars to build new firefighting facilities.

RAPID CITY, S.D. — Volunteer fire departments play a vital role in the Black Hills.

The latest example – the Schroeder Road Fire where over 200 volunteer firefighters answered the call.

“When you’re dealing with a Schroeder Road Fire and you have three other fires that are threatening ,you know, two of them were threatening communities and you have that kind of problem going on, you need to be able to have those kind of forces readily at hand and if wasn’t for our volunteers, we would have nothing,” said Jerome Harvey, Pennington County Fire Administrator.

Now to help their operations, four area VFD’s are seeking funds from the Pennington County Commissioners.

During a budget proposal on Friday from the county’s Fire Administrator, the Scenic, Wasta, Quinn, and Silver City Fire departments asked for two-million dollars – or $500,000 each – to build four new firefighting buildings – funds that would take years to raise through their annual fundraisers.

“Our department has put together a gun fundrasier this last year,” said Chief Charles Maude of the Scenic Volunteer Fire Department. “We scraped together $9,000 dollars. If you’re talking about a half a million dollar building and you’re raising $9,000 a year, it’s going to take a long time.”

Issues of space, the deterioration of buildings, and access to water surrounding their facilities – all over 50 years old – and that weren’t even meant to serve in that capacity.

Some stations unable to use certain resources due to location issues during the winter.

“There are times that we do not take our brush truck down even when it’s chained up,” said Silver City Fire Chief, Phil Schlief. “It’s just too treacherous to get down and then back up that hill.”

These fire departments also called to large fires around the state – some that are many miles away from their station.

Add in South Dakota winter weather that freezes equipment, and further problems persist.

“We’ve been on structure fires where we’ve had to get stuff thawed out and get out to a structure fire at 20 below and we’ve had to run 25 miles to get to that structure fire and stuff so we’ve pretty much done it all,” said Chief Dave Humphrey of the Quinn Volunteer Fire Department.

Vfd Funds 11

“There’s no possible way for volunteer fire departments to fund their operations simply with pancakes feeds or chili feeds,” Harvey said.

The next step is for commissioners to meet with the V.F.Ds to hash out further details regarding the funds.

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