- Associated Press - Friday, December 11, 2015

SPEARFISH, S.D. (AP) - The Spearfish Volunteer Fire Department has reversed an earlier decision to dissolve.

The department voted 46-4 this week to rescind its dissolution after announcing in September that it would dissolve by late January, the Black Hills Pioneer reported (https://bit.ly/1mfkmF1 ).

The vote follows a meeting of a task force set up to discuss the future of fire protection in Spearfish. The 10-person task force recommended a city department with three full-time paid positions and a volunteer staff.

Adam Ziegler, a volunteer firefighter and training officer who served on the task force, said seeing a transition plan in place and knowing that there is going to be extra help and budget assistance offered hope.

“There’s a light at the end of the tunnel for the people that are volunteering, whereas at the point of voting to dissolve there was no light at the end of the tunnel,” Ziegler said.

The city’s nonprofit all-volunteer fire department cited a lack of support and low morale when it said in September that it would dissolve after 134 years of service to the Black Hills community of about 11,000 people.

The department covers about 185 square miles of territory and has 37 volunteers, far short of a full roster of 63. Officials have said there is a lack of firefighters willing to take on leadership roles because of the time commitment required, and that disagreements over how best to fund the department degraded relations with the city.

The City Council in October authorized Mayor Dana Boke to set up the task force to chart a course forward, and the group presented its recommendations this week.

“I am extremely pleased that the volunteer organization will not only preserve their 100-year history but will also partner with the city as we move into a new model of fire protection,” Boke said. “This is a significant step in the process, and the volunteers’ support of the task force recommendation is key.”

Spearfish is one of the last cities of its size in the state to have an all-volunteer fire department, he said. The task force said in its report that its recommendation is in line with what similar South Dakota cities are doing and with accepted industry practices.

The City Council must approve the new setup. That could happen as early as January, according to City Administrator Joe Neeb.


Information from: Black Hills Pioneer, https://www.bhpioneer.com

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