Fire Department History

 

 

Fort Pierre Fire Department History and Background....

 

Established..........

Through all the records that members of the department have looked through, the furthest back that we can find anything on is 1904.  Obviously, Fort Pierre has been a community since the early 1800's, as Fort Pierre was one of the first white settlements in South Dakota during the fur trading and Lewis & Clark days, however, it is not clear when there was an actual organized fire department, therefore, until we find older records, we are considered as established in 1904.

Response Area........

The Fort Pierre Fire Department is responsible for fire protection in the City of Fort Pierre and most of the rural portions of Stanley County, South Dakota - including Tribal lands and National Grasslands areas in the county.  Total land acres in Stanley County is 904,960.  The City limits, population around 2,100, is about 3 square miles in area.  Stanley County, population of approximately another 800 people, has an area of 1,443 square miles.  Although the Four Corners Fire Department (located at Hayes - 30 miles west of Fort Pierre) responds to fires in a portion of western/northwestern Stanley County and parts of northeastern Haakon County, it is still common for the Fort Pierre Fire Department to respond 60, 70 or more miles ONE WAY to fire calls.  Most people in South Dakota don't even have to drive 60 miles or more to the next large town or the next county, no less to fight fires.

The Fort Pierre Fire Department responds to an average of 50 to 80 emergency calls annually.

Fire Stations.........

It is interesting to know that there have been numerous fire stations in Fort Pierre throughout the years.  Through records and stories from older folks, apparently the 1st known main station was in downtown Fort Pierre - adjacent to the Rowe building, which is known today as Diamond D Saddle Shop.  It was literally "nothing special" and wasn't very big - about enough to store 1 truck and very little equipment or other storage.  Station #2 was on the south side of the Bad River - on Wandel Avenue about 1/2 block west of current day highway 83.  Now this wasn't a large organized building, it was merely a shack or shed that stored a hose cart, and again, not much other equipment or supplies.  If the need arose when apparatus or manpower couldnt get to the south side, at least the hose cart was available.

The first "real" station was eventually built in downtown Fort Pierre and was constructed of brick.  It had 2 truck bays; restrooms; a small shop work area and a meeting area that was shared by other organizations and groups.  This station became somewhat small in the early to mid 1970's as the department about had too many trucks to fit inside.  The trucks that were inside were literally bumper to bumper, plus there was 1 to 2 trucks that sat out behind the station in the open.  Stories of years back advise that depending on the type of fire call, the members may have to move a truck or two out before getting to the trucks that they needed.  The building, located across from the Chuckwagon Cafe, is still there and currently houses West Side Paint and Body.

In the mid 1970's, the department members and then Fire Chief Richard "Bud" Gould streamlined the need for a different facility.  Chief Gould went out and found some loan programs; proposed the idea to the city and county commissioners and then ended up geting the "blessing" from the city and county fathers to proceed with building a new building.  The building was erected in 1977-78 and was dedicated and put into use in 1978.  The building cost $225,000 and the 30 year loan originated from the Farm Home Administration.   At the time, the building was considered "too big" by some and was considered state of the art by others.  It has 8 full truck bays; meeting room area; Chiefs office; restrooms on both levels; large shop area; storage rooms and communications room where the radios, a phone, and other pertinent supplies are located.  The building houses a large backup generator in case the city power were to go out, the department can still function properly.  It can also serve as an emergency shelter if needed due to the space available for citizens.  Current day, the station has "shrunk" quite a bit.  With 11 pieces of apparatus, it gets very cozy to say the least.  The department has a committee that is working on plans for a 2nd station in the near future in the northwest part of town.  Not only will having another station eleviate spacing needs for apparatus and other equipment, but it will also provide better fire protection and response to the citizens - especially on the west side of the railroad tracks.

Fire Chiefs...........

The following are the known fire chiefs and the year(s) that they were Chief of the Fort Pierre Fire Department that we have records for.  We are uncertain of who was the chief before these or how they went about "fire command" at scenes.

Fire Chiefs past to present are:  Frank O'Reilly - 1917 to 1930.   Norman Pugh - 1930 to 1948.  Quentin Sutley - 1949 to 1956.  Robert "Bud" Cronin - 1956.  Glen Whitney - 1957.  Robert "Bob" Boyd - 1957 to 1968.  Richard "Bud" Gould - 1968 to 1978.  Harold "Butch" Deneui - 1978 to 1982.  Tom Vandersnick - 1982 to 1984.  Robert "Buddy" Cronin - 1984 to 1990.  Richard "Butch" Jacobsen - 1990 to 1992.  John Rajdl - 1992 to 1994.  Larry Cronin - 1994 to 1996.  Rick Cronin - 1996 to 2003.  Carl Rathbun - 2003 to 2006.  Rick Cronin - 2006.  Joe Meligan - 2007.  Eric Paul - January till July 2008.  Rick Cronin - July 2008 to January 1, 2011.   Cody Lengkeek - 2011.  Rick Cronin - 2012, 2013 & 2014.

Fire School 3-man Race Team Champions...........

Every year, departments from across the state travel to fire school which is historically been in June.  This schooling consists of courses for firefighters to learn new skills and keep up-to-date on the ones they already know.  There are also other functions at fire school such as Evolution competition (also known as Race team competition) between departments.  There are 4 different evolutions with 3 team members in each to compete in and all have the same general concept - hook hoses up; flow water and knock down a target that simulates a fire.  The quickest time in each evolution without penalties is the goal.  Although records do not indicate exactly when the Fort Pierre Fire Department started competing in these evolutions, we do know the years that we have taken home the State Championship Trophy for the 3 man competition.  Those years are:  1968, 1970, 1974, 1983, 1987, 1990, 1991, 2000, 2001 and 2007, 2012 and 2013.  We are very proud of our accomplishments and hope to continue the tradition in the future.   We also have been priveleged to have met up with some other very good teams such as Yankton, Beresford, Hudson and others during these competitions.  These same "rivalries" have become good friends to us "off the field."

Firefighters of the Year..............

Just as we are proud of our department as a whole, the members started a Firefighter of the Year program in the early 1980's to single out a member that went above and beyond for the year.  This is a very prestigious award for those that have received it and we would like to express our gratitude to them for your time, dedication and attendance in the department.  It is voted on by the department membership and can be any current rostered member.  

Those that have been recognized as Firefighters of the Year are:  John Goehring - 1984.  Galen Stoeser - 1985.  Bud Gould - 1986.   Rick Cronin - 1988.  Gordy Paul - 1989.  Mark Goehring - 1990.  John Rajdl - 1991.  Rick Cronin - 1992.  Larry Cronin - 1993.  Butch Jacobsen - 1994.  Perry Longbrake - 1995.  John Rajdl - 1996.  Jim Gillaspie - 1997.  Jeff Baker - 1998.  Joe Meligan - 1999.  Buddy Cronin - 2000.  Dan Wagner - 2001.  Shane Cronin - 2002.  Bryan Caldwell - 2003.  Eric Paul - 2004.  Bryan Caldwell - 2005.  Joe Meligan - 2006.  Mark Menning - 2007.  Buddy Cronin - 2008.

Membership and how we operate.......

As of March 2014, there is a force of 35 rostered members on the department, plus 2 cadets.  All members including the Chief are 100% volunteer and do not receive any monetary funds for their time and dedication.  The only pay is the pride they have for helping others in need - which is quite rewarding in itself.  Administratively, the Fort Pierre Fire Department is actually a corporation and contracts with the city and with the county for firefighting services.  The department is an independant organization and we run ourselves, unlike most departments that are governed by the city or the county.  The department has a Chief, Assistant Chief and 3 captains for fire command.  The Chief, a Secretary, a Treasurer and 4 board of directors take care of our business administration portion.  Our department makes monetary requests to both the city and county commissions each year at budget time with a proposed cost of fighting fires for the next year (i.e. firefighting funding needs for the next contract year.)  There is no set fee requirement that the city or county has to pay for services.  Both the city and county commissions have been very observant of the citizens' needs in the past and have fulfilled most of the fire departments' monetary requests.  In lieu of this, the citizens can expect good equipment; good apparatus and outstanding firefighting service from our members at their emergencies.  If you are interested in becoming a volunteer firefighter with our organization, please contact us or stop in to check us out.  We hold a weekly training/work night each Wednesday evening starting at around 7 p.m. if you want to stop in and look around or visit.  Applicants must be at least 18 years of age and reside anywhere in Fort Pierre or Stanley County OR can reside within the city limits of Pierre or within a reasonable response area of Fort Pierre if living outside of Pierre.

I.S.O. Rating......

As is mentioned in a different portion of our webpage, the Fire Department and City are proud to make it known that the fire protection rating for Fort Pierre is a class 4 rating.  On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the best, most insurance companies utilize this rating to be able to come up with your monthly premium on your home or business.  Commercial buildings see the biggest impact on their insurance premium rates, however, we encourage all homeowners and commercial building owners alike to inquire into your insurance company on what rating they are using to calculate premiums.  They should be using a class 4 rating if it is anywhere within the city limits of Fort Pierre.  If they are using the old class 6 or the older class 8, you need to have them change it to class 4 rating.   If your agent needs a copy of the report given to us by ISO for proof, please contact us and we will provide a copy to you.