Community honors the life, career of Bill Bell

CUSTER S.D. – Community members from across the Southern Hills gathered in Custer on Saturday morning to honor a firefighter who served for over three decades.

“He loved the fire service, he truly did,” said Custer Volunteer Fire Department member Jim Allen. “And it was almost a way of life for him.”

Bill Bell, a firefighter with the Custer Volunteer Fire Department was remembered by friends and family. The memorial started with a procession of over 30 engines and trucks from different agencies in the Southern Hills, making their way down Highway 16 and into Custer. They then met at the Custer VFW.

Friends and family said Bill wore many hats and connected fire communities across the country. Bill was the First Assistant Chief with the Custer VFD. He passed away in March after battling cancer.

“We’re glad to be able to be here to celebrate Bill’s life and make note of his contributions to not only the Custer Fire Department, but also the Fire Service of Western South Dakota,” said Allen.

In his career, Bill served on two international incident management teams, bringing together experts from Canada and the US. The teams managed fires in Georgia and in Northern Florida.

As a fire service instructor, Bill taught structure and wildland fire classes across the state.

Friends say he was a role model in the world of fire service, and in the community.

“It’s a brotherhood and a sisterhood without a doubt,” said Allen. “There’s a close bond between people in fire departments. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a volunteer or you’re paid.”

Bill also set up the Cadet Program in Custer which introduces high school students to the fire service.

And just this past week, Governor Kristi Noem proclaimed May 11th as Bill Bell Day, so that firefighters for years to come will remember his contributions.

“It’s great to see them all come and show their dedication for Bill’s contributions to the fire service,” said Allen.

Categories: Local News, South Dakota News