- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 30, 2015

SPEARFISH, S.D. (AP) - The volunteer fire department in Spearfish is dissolving after 134 years of service to the Black Hills community, citing a lack of support and low morale.

The department’s members voted 24-11 earlier this month to dissolve the nonprofit effective next Jan. 31, the Black Hills Pioneer reported (https://bit.ly/1KRhtQ7 ).

“Of all the things that the members have seen in their years on the department and all the decisions they’ve had to make in the face of fighting fire, this is by far the worst and most gut-wrenching decision that anybody has had to face,” Chief Taylor Custis said.

The department has 37 volunteers, far short of a full roster of 63, and there is a lack of firefighters willing to take on leadership roles because of the time commitment now required, President Janette Hettick said.

The city also has refused to raise property taxes to better fund the department, though the City Council last week voted to make up the money that used to be collected through a fund drive the department voted last spring to discontinue.

“What this department needs right now would be a solid commitment from somebody, and unfortunately, I think it is too late for that,” Custis said.

Mayor Dana Boke said a team will be formed to figure out a plan for fire protection after the volunteer department dissolves.

“Everyone will be taken care of. We are putting things into place to ensure safety and working with volunteers in doing that,” Boke said. “Although we are disappointed with their actions we will continue to work with them and will move forward with a different service model.”

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


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