Bushnell, SD fire shining a light on rural firefighters

Published: Feb. 2, 2023 at 10:17 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - An overnight fire in Bushnell, South Dakota has left two people without a home. It also brings attention to the difficulties of fighting fires in a rural community during below-zero temperatures.

David Huebner, who runs a pottery shop in Bushnell, is the homeowner. He rents it out to his daughter, and he got a call from her about the fire just after midnight.

“I threw some clothes on and went running back there and there were flames coming out from under the entryway and going up the door,” Huebner said.

With a population listed at 70, fighting a fire in Bushell is no easy task.

“We know that there are no fire hydrants here so it’s an automatic mutual aide call. We shuttled back to Aurora to get water. Last night we used about 10,000 gallons of water,” said Josh Krukall, a volunteer firefighter in Aurora.

The windchill temperature at that time was -1 degrees.

“Fighting a fire in this kind of cold is always tough because every time you shut something down or lay it down it freezes,” explained Mark Potthast, the Aurora Fire Department chief.

“My gloves were frozen they were pretty much just ice clubs, my bunker gear was frozen it didn’t want to move. You’re moving water onto the fire, it’s turning to steam the steams condensing into water then it’s falling on you then it’s freezing up,” said Levi Smith, a volunteer firefighter in Aurora.

Nearly every firefighter that responded was a volunteer.

“Very dedicated, you go out at midnight and stay until 4:00 in the morning you have to be pretty dedicated,” Potthast said.

“It’s that brotherhood, showing up on the scene, it doesn’t matter what town you’re from, you know what the job is and you just do what you need to do,” said Smith.

The Brookings County Sheriff’s Office, Aurora Fire Department, Bruce Fire Department, Brookings Fire Department, Elkton Fire Department, White Fire Department, Sinai Fire Department, Volga Fire Department, Brookings Ambulance and Brookings County Emergency Management were all dispatched for this fire.

Liz Oakley the truck captain in Volga wants to emphasize the need for more volunteer firefighters and encourages others to sign up.