SPEARFISH, S.D. (AP) — The Spearfish City Council has authorized Mayor Dana Boke to set up a task force to discuss how firefighting will be handled in the city after the Black Hills community’s volunteer force has been dissolved.
Volunteers announced late last month that they are closing the department after 134 years of service, citing a lack of support and low morale. The nonprofit will dissolve by the end of January.
The 10-person task force will include some past and present members of the volunteer fire department, along with other city and Lawrence County officials, the Black Hills Pioneer reported ( ). Rapid City Fire Chief and former Spearfish volunteer Mike Maltaverne also will serve, along with Samuel Harbert, fire and emergency services manager for the state Department of the Military.
“They are all experts in their field and all part of emergency services, past or present, and different areas that have to work together as the police department, the ambulance service, and the fire department,” Boke said.
The task force will consider how other cities in the state handle fire protection, and “will move quite quickly” to develop a plan for Spearfish, she said.
Police Chief Pat Rotert will chair the task force.
“There’s an obvious nexus and relationship . with ambulance, fire, and police,” he said. “We’ve all been doing this for a long time; it’s just how are we going to be doing it from here forward?”
The volunteer department covers about 185 square miles of territory. It 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 have degraded relations with the city.
Information from: Black Hills Pioneer,