BLACK HILLS, S.D. (KELO) — This week, the Black Hills are filled with motorcycles and people taking in the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
But it’s not the only event going on. South Dakota’s Task Force 1 is also training in the area.
Working together to achieve a common goal is one definition of the word, team. South Dakota’s Task Force 1 is the perfect example.
“Every year during the rally we bring members of the task force from Aberdeen, Watertown, and Sioux Falls out to Rapid to do two things. One, we train with the Rapid City members so that everybody gets used to everybody else’s skill sets and get comfortable working with each other and then we’re also here in the event of a bigger incident, we have more manpower on scene to help the Rapid City Department,” Groen said.
Since the 75th Sturgis Rally four years ago, Task Force 1 has gathered members to train in specialized skills, including swiftwater training.
“It’s not putting out the fires, it’s not wildland fires, that type of thing, it’s more specialized than that and so it takes hundreds of hours of training that goes in to our folks, just on that specialized part. Over and above their normal training as a firefighter,” Chief Seals said.
Compared to other states, South Dakota is geographically very large. Members of the Task Force have to travel long distances to train together but also to support each other in catastrophic events.
“Most states you’d have another town our size not too far away and they’d be able to take on those specialties and we don’t have that luxury here and so it does force our small department to have people that are trained in hazmat and swiftwater and so it’s just the nature of the beast living here,” Chief Seals said.
This requires coordination between the fire departments.
“We move the trainings around to the 4, Aberdeen, Watertown, Sioux Falls or Rapid City. We have it here because it’s during the rally that way we have more folks to help us out in case something was to happen,” Chief Seals said.
This year’s heavy rain and flooding also shows the need for knowing how to perform swift-water rescues.
After four years, the team is getting to know each others’ best skills.
“I remember the first year we did this, during the 75th rally and the guys were aware of each other but they didn’t train together as much and now when they show up on the scene it’s like another crew from the same department coming in. They all are speaking the same lingo, you seen in the briefing here, they’re talking so they all have the same tactics and strategies,” Groen said.
These men are preparing for the most dangerous situations man-made or by nature. This means, even during training, they have to trust each other with their lives.
“Usually that’s only something that you gather from people that you work with on your own department, now they are building those bonds across the state with each other so they are comfortable having people show up from Rapid City and Watertown and they know they can trust them and vice versa so it reaps benefits across the board for us,” Groen said.
“We have a lot of great fire departments that surround Rapid City and the whole Black Hills area but again because of the time commitment and money that it takes to train over and above the normal stuff they do, it just becomes impossible to put that kind of load on them,” Chief Seals said.
Now, this team has formed a specialized Task Force in different parts of the state to answer each others’ calls when needed.
“Every city in the state benefits from this. If there is an event that’s beyond their local capabilities. We’re the guys that they can call,” Groen said.
Today, was the last day the team was together for this training period. Over the course of this week, they trained in the Black Hills for swiftwater rescue and hazmat in the Sturgis area.