File Photo : Herb Ryan/Custer Free Press. Angostura Reservoir . May 20, 02016

RAPID CITY, S.D- The South Dakota Wildland Fire Division will be administering an annual fire aviation certification to the South Dakota National Guard Aviation Unit in Custer State Park at Stockade Lake on Friday, May 4.

This yearly certification, required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Department of Interior, allows South Dakota National Guard Black Hawk helicopters to respond to wildland fires.

Crews will be tested on fire aviation procedures to ensure safety and accuracy of helicopters when dropping water on a target.

Flight operations will begin at 10 a.m. and last until 3 p.m.

Recreational users in the Stockade area are urged to use caution on the west end of the lake.  Those who use the Custer State Park Airport are advised to be alert for helicopters utilizing the airport facilities as a helibase.

South Dakota Wildland Fire can be found on Twitter @SDWildlandFire and on Facebook by searching SD Wildland Fire.


90-day public comment period is open for Request for Information to improve prehospital trauma care.

Each year, nearly 200,000 people in the U.S. die from traumatic injuries. The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) estimate as many as 20% of these deaths could have been prevented. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), on behalf of the Federal Interagency Committee on EMS (FICEMS), is seeking comments by July 26, 2018 on the effectiveness of current treatment efforts and opportunities to improve prehospital trauma care.

The Request for Information (RFI) seeks public input on areas in which improved prehospital care could help save lives. In 2016, NASEM released A National Trauma Care System, a report that defined preventable deaths after injury as those casualties whose lives could have been saved by appropriate and timely medical care, regardless of tactical, logistical, or environmental issues. The RFI asks respondents from all backgrounds and areas of expertise to provide input on a range of issues including opportunities for medical collaboration, EMS data integration, and the possibility of cross-training military EMS resources with civilian EMS.

Comments may be submitted:

  • Online through the Federal eRulemaking Portal (identified by Docket No. NHTSA-2018-0056)
  • Through mail or hand delivery to: Docket Management Facility, U.S. Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, West Building, Room W12-140, Washington, DC 20590



File 20180424 175041 119ngi2.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Strong enough to do the job. Peretz Partensky/flickr, CC BY-SA

Lorraine Dowler
Pennsylvania State University

Five women graduated from New York City’s Fire Academy on April 18, bringing the number of women serving in the Fire Department of New York to 72 – the highest in its history.

The FDNY’s 2018 graduating class also includes the first son to follow his mother into the profession. She was one of the 41 women hired in 1982 after the department lost a gender discrimination lawsuit and was ordered to add qualified women to the force

Despite these milestones, women still make up less than 1 percent of New York’s 11,000 firefighters. The city trails Minneapolis, San Francisco, Seattle and Miami, where in recent years fire squads have been more than 10 percent female. The national average hovers around 5 percent.

Approximately 10,300 women nationwide worked as full-time firefighters in 2016, according to the most recent data available from the Department of Labor. In 1983, there were just 1,700.

These women are on the front lines, fighting fires, helping victims of natural disasters and combating terrorism.

I interviewed over 100 female firefighters for an academic study of women in traditionally male industries. My research reveals how women are changing firehouse culture and transforming how Americans see heroism.

Two centuries of service

Women have been putting out fires in the U.S. for 200 years.

In 1815 Molly Williams joined New York City’s Oceanus Engine Company No. 11. Williams was a black woman enslaved by a wealthy New York merchant who volunteered at the firehouse. Williams would accompany the merchant to the station to cook and clean for the all-white, all-male crew.

One evening, the alarm rang at Oceanus No. 11. The men were incapacitated by the flu, so Williams grabbed the hand-pumped hose and answered the call alone. Her strength so impressed the men that they offered her a job.

In 1926, 50-year-old Emma Vernell became New Jersey’s first female firefighter when her husband, Harry, a volunteer fireman in the town of Red Bank, died in the line of duty.

Many more women took their husbands’ places in America’s volunteer fire service during World War II. By the mid-1940s, two Illinois military fire departments were “manned” entirely by women.

But the profession really opened up to women after the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which made it illegal for employers to discriminate against applicants based on sex, race, religion or nationality.

Strong, brave and invisible

Despite this history, I still hear claims that affirmative action for female firefighters is diluting standards and putting communities at risk.

Even my liberal colleagues have asked me whether women can really carry an unconscious victim out of a fire while wearing 100 pounds of gear.

The answer is yes.

In 2008, almost 70 percent of all aspiring female firefighters passed the national Candidate Physical Abilities Test, which tests for endurance, strength and cardiovascular health. The same year, 75 percent of male applicants passed.

Female success rates rise when departments offer specialized preparation programs for women to work out together, get hands-on experience with firefighting equipment, and follow individualized strength-training routines.

Critics have suggested to me that there aren’t more female firefighters because women are not interested in such a dangerous and “dirty” job.

Yet women are much better represented in fields that require a comparable level of strength and stamina, including drywall installation, logging and welding – though they remain minorities.

Women have also made more inroads in other historically male-dominated careers like aerospace engineering and medicine. Today, some 150 years after the first American woman entered medical school, in 1911, almost 35 percent of doctors are women.

Fear of change

So why are just 5 percent of firefighters female?

Based on research on gender integration in the U.S. military, I believe the main obstacle facing women in firefighting is its traditional culture.

Like soldiers, firefighters are viewed as proud warriors working on dangerous front lines. That image comes with powerful stereotypes about who’s best suited to do the work. Female soldiers and firefighters both challenge a cultural standard that men are heroes and women are onlookers, even victims.

The military first added women to its ranks in 1948. In December 2015, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter lifted the ban on women in combat roles – “as long as they qualify and meet the standards” – despite opposition from the Marines.

Today, women still account for just 15 percent of active military personnel.

Firefighting too is a traditional field. Over the past decade, numerous departments have been found guilty of discriminating against applicants of color and ordered to retool entrance testing that had a disparate impact based on race.

Women are in some ways even more disruptive newcomers to firefighting because they entirely upend societal gender norms.

Fire departments across the U.S. have been sued for discrimination against women and people of color. Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

Workplace harassment

Interviewees have told me they face severe harassment on the job.

One found her oxygen tank drained. Another confided that her male colleagues are so hostile she fears they’ll leave her alone in a fire.

Female firefighters also contend with ill-fitting gear. The long fingers of male gloves affect their grip, they report. Boots and coats are too large. Oversized breathing masks push their loose helmets forward, blocking their vision during fires.

Station houses often lack of private spaces for women, including bathrooms, changing areas and dormitories.

In 2016, 34 years after women joined New York City’s fire department, the city boasted that all of its 214 active firehouses finally had gender-separated facilities. For three decades, some of New York’s bravest went to the bathroom in neighborhood diners.

Women winning

Female firefighters are succeeding anyway.

Several hundred have risen to the level of lieutenant or captain. Another 150 hold the highest rank, fire chief. That includes Chief JoAnne Hayes-White, whose historic 2004 hiring made San Francisco the world’s largest urban fire department led by a woman.

Meanwhile, these women are transforming how Americans imagine heroism.

One Wisconsin firefighter said people are surprised when her all-female crew pulls up to a blaze. But, she told me, “No one cares if you’re a woman when their house is on fire.”

A woman in San Francisco said she intentionally stands outside the station during down time so that neighborhood children realize that black women can be firefighters.

The Conversation“You have to see it to be it,” she said.

Lorraine Dowler, Associate Professor of Geography and Women’s Studies, Pennsylvania State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation.





A statewide tornado drill will be conducted for South Dakota by the National Weather Service between 9:00 and 9:30 am MDT (10:00 and 10:30 am CDT) on Wednesday, April 25.  Because the exercise is used to ensure communications and warning systems are functioning properly before storm season, people will see and hear the actual alerts used for tornadoes.

Outdoor warning sirens will be sounded in many towns.  The sirens may not be heard inside homes and office buildings, as they are intended to alert people who are outdoors away from radio or TV.

The drill will also include activation of the Emergency Alert System, which will interrupt local media broadcasts.  The scroll on broadcast television and cable TV channels will look like a real warning, while the NOAA Weather Radio and broadcast audio will be identified as a test.

Local emergency response agencies may practice their response procedures and many schools will conduct safety drills for their students.

People do not need to take any action during the drill, but they are encouraged to make plans to protect themselves and their families before storms develop.  Don’t wait until the storm is headed toward you as there won’t be time.  Information about storm safety is available from county emergency management offices or visit the following web sites:

Rapid City National Weather Service: www.weather.gov/safety

American Red Cross: www.redcross.org

Federal Emergency Management Agency: http://www.ready.gov


RAPID CITY, S.D. – Registration is now open for the 2018 Wildland Fire Academy which will be held in Ft. Pierre, SD on March 22-25. The academy is put on by the South Dakota Department of Agriculture’s Wildland Fire Division with assistance from their federal partners.

This event provides a quality training experience for volunteer fire departments and state and federal firefighters. Fifty percent Volunteer Fire Assistance reimbursement grant funds are still available for volunteer departments to offset the costs of participation. Departments wishing to do this must send their applications to Jim Burk, Assistant Chief of Operations by close of business on March 2. More information can be found at Wildlandfire 

Firefighter and public safety is always the number one objective in wildland firefighting. “We support this objective by providing quality training opportunities such as this academy,” said Tamara Dierks, training specialist. “Firefighters not only get to expand their knowledge base, but they get to know one another, fostering relationships and trust that further support our mission.”

For a list of classes and details to register, visit:  REGISTER

Students attending National Wildfire Coordinating Group courses must have their Incident Command System (ICS) classes up to date in order to receive certification. Minimum ICS courses include ICS-100 and ICS-700. Additional prerequisite qualifications or courses may be required dependent upon training level.

For more information, please contact Tamara Dierks, South Dakota Wildland Fire at 605.393.4229 or email Tamara.Dierks@state.sd.us.

South Dakota Wildland Fire can be found on Facebook by searching SD Wildland Fire and on Twitter @SDWildlandFire.

South Dakota’s State Fire Marshal Urges People To Be Safe During Thanksgiving

November 20, 2017

PIERRE, S.D. – South Dakota’s State Fire Marshal is urging people to make sure their homes, especially their kitchens, are safe this Thanksgiving holiday.

The chance of home fires increases during major holidays, according to Fire Marshal Paul Merriman. He says nationally, the number of home fires double on that holiday.

“If you have ever hosted a Thanksgiving dinner, you know there is a lot of activity in the kitchen and Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires,” he says. “It is extremely important with everything going on, that people still be careful with fires.”

Merriman says some cooking safety tips are:

·   Stay in the kitchen when cooking on the stove top and keep an eye on the food.

·   Stay in the home when cooking your turkey as well, and check on it often.

·   If you must step away from your cooking, set a kitchen timer so you don’t get distracted by guests.

·   Keep children at least three feet away from the stove, oven, hot food and liquids. Steam or splash from vegetables, gravy, or coffee could cause serious burns.

·   Keep items that can catch fire, such as oven mitts, wooden utensils, and towels, away from the cooking area.

·   Make sure the floor is clear of tripping hazards such as children, toys, bags, or pets that could cause you to fall.

·   Keep knives out of the reach of children.

·   Turn pot and pan handles inward and away from the front or edge of the stove. If handles are turned outward, they could be jostled or knocked off the stove and spill, causing burns.

·   Keep electric cords from appliances such as electric knives or mixers from dangling off the counter in reach of a child.

Merriman says cooking fires are not the only threat during Thanksgiving. There also are the dangers that could stem from burning candles, fireplaces, furnaces and other heat sources.

“Whether it is a holiday or not, make sure you have working smoke alarms on each level of the home,” Merriman says. “With a greater potential of home fires during the holidays, you need to use all possible safety measures available. We want this day to be remembered for a celebration, not a tragedy.”

The South Dakota Fire Marshal’s Office is part of the South Dakota Department of Public Safety.

High Number Of Motor Vehicle Fatalities Prompts Department Of Public Safety Message

November 7, 2017

PIERRE, S.D. – After 29 vehicle fatalities in the last two months, South Dakota Department of Public Safety officials are again stressing the need for driver and passenger safety.

Preliminary numbers include 15 fatalities in September and 14 in October. So far in November, there have been three confirmed fatalities statewide.

The September-October fatalities occurred in 26 fatal crashes –13 reported in each month. Motor vehicle crashes accounted for 23 of the fatalities while the other six involved motorcycles or pedestrians. Of the 23 motor vehicle fatalities, 16 were not wearing seatbelts.

“Too many fatalities, too many families grieving,” says Office of Highway Safety Director Lee Axdahl. “Many of these fatal crashes didn’t have to happen if people paid attention to driving and most importantly wore seatbelts. It is about protecting you and others.”

Statistics indicate that 10 of the fatal crashes occurred when vehicles went off the road and rolled. Nine people died after being ejected from their vehicle; most because they were not wearing seatbelts.

“Until you have to a respond to a scene like that, you don’t understand the devastation such crashes cause,” says Col. Craig Price, superintendent of the South Dakota Highway Patrol. “It is not only traumatic for the families, but also for the first responders who rush to the scene. If you are buckled in, you have a better chance to survive if your vehicle rolls.”

With two months left, the state’s fatality count is still behind last year’s total which was 116, the second lowest in the state’s history. With winter weather and the holidays approaching, Axdahl and Price encourage people to, among other things, slow down, don’t drink and drive, don’t get distracted by electronic devices and wear seatbelts.

“This is all about common sense,” they said. “It is about knowing that when you are driving,  the only thing you should be focused on is driving.”

New SDDOT Tow Plows To Service Yankton – Rapid City – Hot Springs Roadways


SDDOT lead highway maintenance worker Tom Nowell from Rapid City maintenance unit 452 stands in front of the tow-plow he will be operating on the Interstate and highways around Rapid City. Photo: SDDOT

November 6, 2017

PIERRE, S.D. – The South Dakota Department of Transportation has expanded its snowplow fleet by adding three new tow-plows for the 2017-2018 winter season.

The new plows will be used to clear roadways in Yankton, Rapid City and Hot Springs. The first tow plow was deployed last year in Sioux Falls with great success, according to SDDOT Secretary Darin Bergquist.

A tow-plow is pulled by a snowplow truck and, along with the front plow on the truck, can clear widths up to 25 feet by allowing the operator to remove snow from one lane and the shoulder in one pass.

“The tow plow has been proven to save wear and tear on equipment, and save on fuel and labor costs. It also allows crews to get the roadway cleared more quickly and efficiently,” Bergquist said.

When the driver deploys the bi-directional tow plow, the wheels turn as much as 30 degrees in either direction, which causes the tow-plow to steer to the right or left of the truck. The tow plow works similarly to a wing plow but with a much greater reach to clear more surface area.

The department’s tow plows will have different set-ups for material that can be used to more effectively treat road surfaces. The two different set-ups the SDDOT will be using can apply a direct liquid spray or a pre-wetting salt application.

To see the tow-plow in action and get more information from an interview with the Sioux Falls tow-plow driver, visit the SDDOT YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/user/SouthDakotaDOT.

For complete road construction information, visit www.safetravelusa.com/sd or dial 511.


Daugaard Administration Launches State Response Website


 November 2, 2017

PIERRE, S.D. – Gov. Dennis Daugaard today announced the launch of SDResponse.gov to provide the public with real-time information during severe weather and disaster situations.

The Governor encourages South Dakotans to utilize the new website in times of emergency and follow the corresponding @SoDakResponds Twitter and Facebook accounts.

“South Dakotans need to have access to up-to-date information in order to make the best decisions during times of disaster and inclement weather. With that intent in mind, we created SDResponse.gov to be a one-stop public safety response site just in time for the winter season,” Gov. Daugaard said.

SDResponse.gov houses material from multiple state agencies and outside response entities. The website currently includes information on drought, fire and winter weather, and the tabs will rotate depending upon the season and what is occurring in the state.

The website also includes an archive where information from emergencies dating back to 2011 are stored. The archive contains sections on the 2011 flood, Winter Storm Atlas, Wessington Springs and Delmont tornadoes, and the Big Sioux River flood in 2014 where photos, press releases, executive orders and letters are available.

“We wanted to provide a historical component to SDResponse.gov as well by making documents and images from past disasters readily available,” said Gov. Daugaard. “We need to remember the lessons we’ve learned from these events and the many ways in which South Dakotans have persevered.”

Does Media Coverage of Wildfires Probe Deeply Enough?


Chasing the flame: Does media coverage of wildfires probe deeply enough?

File 20170918 8275 t1f82l
Trees burn in the High Park wildfire near Fort Collins, Colorado, June 17, 2012. USFS, CC BY

Adrianne Kroepsch
Colorado School of Mines
September 20, 2017

It is the dry season in western states, which means that large swaths of land are burning or smoldering and are likely to remain that way until the snows arrive. The 2017 wildfire year started earlier and has scorched more acreage than normal. It is also far from over.

As wildfire trends worsen, it is increasingly important for communities in fire-prone regions to learn from past blazes and adapt to a more flammable future. Communities located in what researchers call “the wildland-urban interface” are due for tough conversations about the future.

Indeed, some communities are already grappling with the challenging policy questions that accompany catastrophic wildfires. To name a few: How much more development should local governments allow in landscapes that have evolved to burn? How should federal agencies manage the overgrown forests generated by wildfire suppression in the past? And as climate change further amplifies wildfire hazards, how can residents of the wildland-urban interface adjust?

Local media can be important players in those conversations. News reporting influences policymakers’ agendas and shapes public memories of disasters. However, past research has argued that the press is more interested in fanning the flames than digging down to root causes and finding a smarter way forward.

But in a newly published study of wildfire coverage in Colorado, my co-authors and I found a more complicated story. When communities face multiple wildfires in a row, local media do in fact raise the tough policy questions that need to be asked in communities at the wildland-urban interface – at least for a little while.

Homes destroyed by the Waldo Canyon Fire in the Mountain Shadows neighborhood of Colorado Springs, Colorado, Monday, July 2, 2012. AP Photo/Bryan Oller

Looking for patterns in wildfire coverage

My colleagues and I set out to study the patterns that appear in local media coverage of wildfires so that we could better understand what policy problems local journalists bring up, how they assign blame or responsibility, and whether these trends change over time.

Past research has suggested that the media are more likely to stymie disaster learning and adaptation than to encourage it. That’s mostly because reporters often ignore catastrophic wildfires’ systemic causes, while they focus on questions better tailored to urban blazes, such as who or what is to blame for sparking the fire.

That critique is largely fair, but it’s also too simple. As it turns out, we know little about how local media engage with the increasingly common occurrence of repeated catastrophic wildfires, which might inspire a different style of reporting. As a former journalist myself, I was especially curious to know more.

These questions sent us digging into a stack of 1,702 news articles published by local media in Colorado before, during and after the 2012 wildfire season – the state’s worst in history. As we analyzed these stories, an unexpected trend appeared: Articles published on wildfires’ anniversaries were more likely to bring up tough policy questions than stories published at other times of year.

This didn’t match what we thought we knew about wildfire coverage or “anniversary journalism.” Going into the study, we had believed that commemorative stories often failed to connect the past with the present in a meaningful or critical way, and therefore were not very useful for learning.

Rising temperatures are extending the fire season and drying out vegetation, creating more fuel for wildfires. FEMA

Analyzing anniversaries

To explore this unexpected trend, we gathered a new sample of stories: commemorative coverage from the first, second and third anniversaries of Colorado’s catastrophic 2012 wildfires, which burned simultaneously in Colorado Springs and Fort Collins. Colorado Springs experienced a second catastrophic fire in 2013, so we collected anniversary coverage for it as well.

As we looked for patterns among the anniversary stories, and between those stories and articles from an 18-month period around the blazes, we paid close attention to whether stories raised policy problems and identified actions that government or individuals should take. We also looked closely at whether policy stories focused on systemic causes of wildfire disasters, such as human development in fire-prone areas, or merely on symptoms of these problems, such as needing more slurry bombers for fighting fires.

Lastly, we looked for examples of local media connecting the past to the present and future in meaningful ways. Communication scholars call this “collective prospective memory-making” – the practice of identifying what needs to be done now and in the future based on a memory of a past event.

Introspection at year one, then business as usual

We found a clear learning and adaptation “signal” during wildfires’ anniversaries, which stood out against the “noise” of wildfire reporting over the rest of our sample. Anniversary coverage was much more likely to bring up policy problems connected to the systemic causes of human vulnerability to wildfire hazards – development in the wildland-urban interface, legacies of wildfire suppression and climate change, to name a few examples.

Many anniversary stories also made statements about what sorts of hazard mitigation actions still needed to be taken based on memories of past blazes. This “signal” was especially strong in wildfire anniversary coverage from Colorado Springs, the community that faced repeated catastrophic wildfires in consecutive years.

But there was also a surprising twist. Wildfires’ first anniversaries were the most promising periods for tough policy conversations. On later anniversaries, local media backtracked on this dialogue. As time passed, reporters took to comparing Colorado’s three major burn zones against each other with a focus on which was rebuilding faster and bigger, framing these later commemorations as a race back to the status quo instead of asking what communities should be doing differently.

By 2025, wildfire fighting is projected to consumer two-thirds of the U.S. Forest Service’s annual budget. USFS

Discussions that lead to change

Our findings show that local media coverage of wildfires appears to be more nuanced than originally thought. More specifically, the first anniversaries of catastrophic wildfires – especially repeated blazes – seem to be a salient time frame for getting to the roots of worsening wildfire hazards. If communities are going to have tough conversations about the future, these may be critical windows for doing so.

The ConversationGoing forward, it will also be important for communication scholars to study how local media signals affect policymakers and individuals. Ultimately, changing the conversation about wildfire matters only if the dialogue manifests in real changes on the ground. This year’s grim wildfire season, the U.S. Forest Service’s growing firefighting expenditures and our increasingly flammable future demand that we ask tough policy questions and then work to answer them with meaningful change.

Adrianne Kroepsch, Assistant Professor, Division of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, Colorado School of Mines

This article was originally published on The Conversation.