More than 96 percent of registered fire departments in South Dakota are all or mostly volunteer, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.
Joe Egge became a volunteer firefighter at 17.
Today he’s the chief of the the Split Rock Volunteer Fire Department.
“There’s a feeling of camaraderie, brotherhood, sisterhood within the department and there’s a euphoric feeling when the pager goes off and you respond to help someone out,” Split Rock VFD Chief Joe Egge said.
His father Todd joined him on the department about nine years ago.
“After working in a family business for decades and seeing my son on the department before me, I knew it was time for me to join. Not to mention that my father participated in this particular department for 48 years prior to both of us,” Split Rock VFD Board President Todd Egge said.
Joe says last year the department responded to about 118 calls, including fires, crashes, medical, and more.
“Living in Sioux Falls there, there’s an on-call, somebody’s sitting at the station ready to go. Outside of city limits we don’t have that luxury. Our tax base doesn’t fund us enough to have 24-hour people staffed on trucks, so when an emergency happens in your home or on the road there needs to be a handful of people available to come assist you with your issues,” Joe Egge said.
And volunteers like the Egges and so many others across KELOLAND are ready to step up.
Joe says his department currently has enough volunteers, but he says there are some communities that do struggle to recruit volunteers at times.