Local volunteer fire departments serving through occasional funding crunches
Local volunteer fire departments proved to be vital assets after helping to provide resources in the Schroeder Fire.
RAPID CITY, S.D. — It’s often a tough road for volunteer fire departments, specially those who aren’t in tax districts.
“We also are short for funding and we struggle with that year after year, even after our fundraisers,” said Carrie Schell, an active member of the Wasta and Wall Volunteer Fire Departments.
According to Pennington County fire officials, about one-third of the county’s volunteer fire departments aren’t in tax districts.
Last year, volunteer fire departments like Wall and Wasta cancelled their annual pancake and steak feeds that bring in roughly $5,000 to $6,000
With neither being a tax district, volunteer firefighters were already facing a problem before the pandemic slowed their call volume and essentially their cash flow.
“We’re volunteers, we don’t get paid to go on any of these calls, even though last year we didn’t have as many calls as the traffic volume was down, we also still have the same expenses year after year,” Schell said.
The Silver City Volunteer Fire Department, cancelled their annual fundraisers which makes up about 25-percent of their budget.
But a silver lining came in the form of CARES ACT funding, making up for the lost revenue.
“It really turned out wonderful for us and so we were able to do some things that we needed to do and still survive,” said Silver City Fire Chief Phil Schlief.
Additional fire stations chose to hold their fundraisers, finding ways to acclimate to the new challenge.
“As firefighters do, we decided to adapt,” said Rapid Valley Fire Chief, Tim Kobes said.
The Rapid Valley Fire Department held its annual pancake supper in October, but offered drive-thru, delivery and dine-in options. Keeping money flowing for its equipment needs.
“100 percent of it goes towards equipment,” Kobes said. “We buy turnout gear, we bought AEDs in the past, we bought LUCAS, which is a mechanical CPR machine.”
In the end, financial or volunteer help goes a long way in helping these fire departments who all aided in the Schroeder Fire.
“The awareness of the general public is to your department, in your area if you live a rural part of the state or county and find out what their needs are and if you can help in a financial manner or you can help in a volunteering manner as a non-firefighter, there’s a lot of opportunities to be able to support a fire department,” said Todd Tobin, a Public Information Officer with the Pennington County Fire Service.