- Associated Press - Friday, June 24, 2016

MITCHELL, S.D. (AP) - Mitchell’s Fire Division is hoping to add more firefighters to its staff for the first time in a decade.

The division responded to 600 calls for service last year, up 21 percent from the previous year, The Daily Republic newspaper reported (http://bit.ly/28Pevnr ). Fires included an August blaze that destroyed the Coca-Cola Bottling Co. plant.

Ambulance calls in 2015 rose about 4 percent from the previous year, to nearly 2,000.

One reason for the increase in calls is that firefighters now assist Northwestern Energy with all natural-gas related calls, according to Assistant Fire Chief Paul Morris.

The Fire Division has 24 people on its firefighting and ambulance staff - changed since 2006. The agency in March applied for a $275,000 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to fund two more firefighters for two years. A decision is pending.

Officials also have talked about building a second fire hall in the city to cut down on response times in some areas, though Morris said construction isn’t likely for several years.

While call volumes have risen in Mitchell, Morris said his department is still able to meet the demand.

“I cannot remember a time ever in my 18 years that we’ve ever not been able to respond to a call,” he said. “We’ve never had a thing where we’ve said, ‘No, we can’t come.’ We go. That’s what we do.”

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Information from: The Daily Republic, http://www.mitchellrepublic.com

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