Disbanded SD volunteer fire dept. to reopen as combo dept.

The 134-year-old all-volunteer department voted to disband 10 weeks ago, citing a lack of support and low morale

SPEARFISH, S.D. — Ten weeks after a mass resignation of an entire volunteer fire department, a task force recommended a blend of a paid fire chief and administrative staff with volunteer firefighters.

Rapid City Journal reported that the struggles with fundraising and an inability to attract new volunteers led the 134-year-old Spearfish (S.D.) Volunteer Fire Department to disband effective Jan. 2016.

After the decision to disband, Mayor Dana Boke appointed a fire department advisory task force.

Firefighter and task force member Adam Zeigler told the city council it was the task force’s unanimous recommendation to create a new fire department. The new department would be led by three full-time paid employees, including a fire chief and two command/support staff employees.

The task force also recommended:

  • Volunteer firefighters would continue to form the foundation of the department.
  • The city would continue to provide fire protection services to rural areas outside city limits.
  • A deferred compensation program for volunteers would be continued.
  • The city would explore how to assist with recruitment and retention of volunteers.

Mayor Boke said more than 30 former firefighters and several new firefighters applied on Thursday.

"Things have really clicked into place and the plan gives us the flexibility in the future as things change and needs evolve," she said. "With this becoming a city department, we will realize many efficiencies in the process by utilizing our finance department, our mechanics and personnel from other departments within the city that can assist with the functions of the fire department."

Spearfish City Administrator Joe Neeb said the city council is likely to approve the task force recommendations at its Dec. 21 meeting, then consider first reading of a new fire protection ordinance and set a public hearing for Jan. 4. At that time, it may also consider an amendment to its budget to provide for the new department's operations.

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