RAPID CITY, S.D. (KELO) — Rapid City Fire Chief Rod Seals is retiring, and it isn’t for the usual reasons. With the threat of COVID-19, the city budget is in bad shape. Retiring is a way for the fire chief to serve and protect the community and the department that he loves.
For the last 25 years, Fire Chief Rod Seals has served for the Rapid City Fire Department and June 19 will be his last day.
Since 1997, he has been a member of the Specialty Rescue Team, Captain at the Regional Airport fire station, Battalion Chief, Fire Operations Chief, and served as interim Fire Chief. In January of 2018, he took over the role as Fire Chief.
“But in a certain sense, a lot of the job is the same. The really important part of this job is when our people are called by 911 to go out and assist that person and so when that human contact is made, that’s where the magic happens,” Chief Seals said.
Right now, Seals is the highest paid employee in the department who is eligible to retire. He says the decision was tough, but knowing his retirement would save money and potentially prevent laying off other members of the department, it was pretty simple.
“Even pre-COVID, I was contemplating retirement but wasn’t sure. Then this all started and I thought, ‘Man, I can’t leave in the middle of a crisis.’ But then again we have an economic crisis looming over us as well so it makes sense,” Seals said.
Jason Culberson, Division Chief of Medical Operations, has worked under Chief Seals for 10 years and says the Chief’s shoes will be hard to fill.
“The selfless act that Rod performed is a good leadership quality and leads the rest of us to know how to act and for the last 10 years, Rod has been a mentor and taught me so much,” Culberson said.
Both men say the fire department is being left in good hands.
“We have some great people here. Another set of very dedicated individuals that are ready and willing to take over,” Culberson said.
“This place is full of amazing people, there’s going to be no problem there,” Chief Seals said.