From high-angle to swift-water, the RCFD trains for everything urban and rural

RAPID CITY, S.D. — The Rapid City Fire Department is a metropolitan agency that responds to all kinds of calls, both urban and rural, and trains to resolve more than structure fires and medical emergencies. From wildland fires, to angled rope rescues, to subsurface rescues, they take an “all-risk, all-hazard” approach to first response. Chief Jason Culberson explains how diverse skill sets and collaboration help them to make this approach possible.

Ice Rescue TrainingWhat necessitates such diverse skills in response?

“The next largest community is 160 miles away,” explains Chief Culberson. “So we would have to wait a significant amount of time if we have a large incident, like a building collapse, where we’d have to wait for somebody to come in and shore the building up before we could make entry.”

Instead of relying on a long wait-time and another department, the RCFD trains their firefighters to handle those situations.

What are some of the disciplines RCFD firefighters are trained in?

“They are cross-trained as a firefighter and a medical provider, and then oftentimes they’ll do some type of specialty,” says Chief Culberson. “So they’ll also train on doing rope rescue, subsurface rescue, vehicle extrication, hazardous materials, we do all the water rescues- so swift water…ice rescue…” and the list includes trench rescue, building collapse, and more.

Are the specialty teams only made up of firefighters/medics?

No! Groups like the ice rescue team and others are comprised of first responders from the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office, Pennington County Search and Rescue, and Rapid City Police Department.

“We combine resources,” Chief Culberson adds. “So instead of each one of those agencies having the specialty, we combine that to give better value to the taxpayer in order to provide the same level of service.”

He explains that the diverse skill sets of the firefighters and other first responders, along with the cooperation of those agencies, is what allows the department to maximize the quality of response while minimizing the cost.

What other programs does the RCFD offer to the community?

Some of the RCFD medics partner with the same groups above to direct care to those who aren’t necessarily experiencing an emergency but still need help.

“We do Mobile Medics, which are single resource paramedics that are going out, doing a lot of casework or social work, trying to eliminate some of our 911 calls,” says Chief Culberson.

A complete list of all of the services that the RCFD provides as well as their 2021 annual report can be found here.

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