CUSTER STATE PARK, S.D. (KELO) — A fire at one of South Dakota’s popular tourist destinations in the Black Hills is under investigation. Flames were reported Saturday night at the Sylvan Lake Lodge in Custer State Park.
Damage from Saturday night’s fire is extensive but Custer Fire Chief Matt Spring says it could have been a lot worse.
It was a dangerous situation that left two firefighters hurt.
“An injury is an injury and that is my biggest regret of anything. Slips, trips and falls was an issue with the ice so we were lucky going into interior attacks on the fire and exterior. It’s a high risk business,” Matt Spring, Custer VFD Fire Chief, said.
The dozens of agencies that responded to the fire over the weekend had to face freezing weather and ice covered roads.
“Here in South Dakota, the issues that all departments deal with in the wintertime that are going to fires is access, slick roads,” Esser said.
Custer County Emergency Manager Steve Esser says winter fires are not uncommon and can be more difficult to battle.
“It takes far more manpower in the wintertime because of the fact that people get cold. And because when gear gets wet it loses some of its safety features,” Esser said.
Chief Spring praises the work and cooperation of all the crews from two different states. However, he says this weekend’s fire highlights the growing need for volunteer firefighters.
“It’s a very large structure, three stories, multiple rooms. And that takes a lot of people and all of us volunteer fire departments are struggling with our volunteer base due to change in culture, people don’t have time to volunteer anymore. It’s not that there are bad people, unfortunately, we are just a dying breed,” Spring said.
Custer Emergency Services urges everyone to take fire precautions in their homes to prevent situations like this one. The Sylvan Lake Lodge was built during the 1930s. It sees thousands of visitors each year.