Rapid City drug problem continues up and up, Fire Department responds with a hazmat training

Firefighters train to respond respond to a drug related call.
Firefighters train to respond respond to a drug related call.(Jeffrey Lindblom)
Published: Dec. 16, 2021 at 4:17 PM MST
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - The Pennington County Sheriff’s Office is, yet again, reporting an increase in drug related crime throughout the county.

Although drug arrests fell slightly last year, the Sheriff’s Office says things are once again on the rise.

They say a huge part of the problem is the addiction and repeat offenders of those who abuse methamphetamine, making up 70-percent of arrests in 2019.

In response to the increase in drugs flooding the area, the Rapid City Fire Department set up a mock car accident where a drug dealer fled the scene, leaving behind dangerous chemicals.

The training is necessary, because Jordan Johnson, Journeyman Firefighter and Paramedic, says when drugs are involved, potential fire hazards increase with the possibility of injuries.

“What we do and what we train on is what happens in real life. You know,” Johnson says, “so you try and take it as seriously as you can. When we pulled up, what we noticed was there was what appears to be some kind of lab in the back. There was an off-gassing substance. [You can] see it smoking. So it immediately becomes a hazmat situation. At that point, kind of everything slows down. Looking at how we’re going to get the patient out of the vehicle safely.”

Mike Bartling, Rapid City Fire Department Captain, says there’s more to firefighters than just fires.

“We’re an all hazard department. We’re there to protect you. They had to assess the scene and realize that I had a hazmat incident,” Bartling says, “a possible fire hazard and then they also has a victim in the vehicle that had to be taken care of.”

Once the team has thoroughly investigated the situation and moved on, deeming it to be safe. They’ll move onto the rescue. Where they work with manikins that simulate the actual body weight of a human being.

“You know the steps that you have to take to do it. You know,” says Johnson, “we’re on radios. We’re communicating. We’re doing everything just like we would on a regular call.”

“Prepare,” says Captain Bartling, “prevent and protect. So, we prepare for as many hazards and emergencies as we can. We try to prevent those emergencies from happening. If they do still unfortunately happen, we’re there to protect you.”

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