LYONS, S.D. (KELO) — Our spring snowmelt is creating seasonal challenges for first-responders in rural areas of South Dakota. Soft and muddy roads can delay response times for firefighters on their way to a fire or a medical emergency. We rode along with the Lyons Volunteer Fire Department to check on the conditions of gravel roads at a time when minutes matter.

It’s a bumpy ride on the backroads of Minnehaha County. So slowing down is a lifesaving strategy for firefighters on their way to an emergency.

“If we don’t get there safely, we can’t help the patient in need. So definitely going down the gravel road I told the guys just take it easy. Drive the conditions,” Lyons Fire Chief Josh Schuette said.

8-foot snow piles towering over the gravel roads will melt onto the roads as the spring thaw gains momentum.

“In some places, the snow is actually piled higher than the road in the ditches so when it’s getting warm out and the snow is melting, the water doesn’t have anywhere to go except rush over the roads,” Lyons firefighter Cole Ahlers said.

Lyons firefighters say soft and slippery roads can slow their arrival time by two to three minutes. That doesn’t sound like a lot of time, but every second counts.

“And nowadays, with how houses are built, two or three minutes doesn’t give you that much time to save a life on a structure fire,” Schuette said.

When road conditions are this soft it becomes all the more important for drivers to pull over when a fire truck is trying to pass. You can see the shoulders here are very wet and if a fire truck has to go onto these shoulders it could very well just sink and end up in the snowbank.

“At 30,000, 35,000 pounds, this truck, we’re going to slide in and sink a lot faster than your typical F-150 at four to 6,000 pounds. So we ask people to slow down, use 4-wheel drive if need be, and yeah, work with us,” Schuette said.

With plenty of snow left to melt, and rain now in the forecast, conditions for first responders on their way to emergencies will only get worse in the days ahead. But they say they’ll be ready for whatever’s up the road.

“Snow, rain, wind, blizzard conditions, we’re in South Dakota. We get all four seasons in an hour, so it’s just exciting for us,” Schuette said.

The Lyons Volunteer Fire Department says they can leave the fire station by around a minute and a half from their first page, because so many members of the department work next-door at the Rosenbauer fire truck plant.