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Letcher Fire Department


DIAL 911 or 248-2300 (local fire bar) in case of emergency

The Letcher Volunteer Fire Department has approximately 25 volunteers willing to assist you 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We have certified first responders and EMT's. The area we serve includes all and parts of Letcher Town, Letcher Township, Butler Township, Elliot Township, Badger Township, Union Township, Logan Township, and Belford Township.

Current officers are:

  • Rodney Clarambeau, Chief
  • Chuck Amick, Assistant Chief
  • Brandon Manchester, President
  • Darin Amick, Treasurer
  • Cindy VanLaecken, Secretary

Here's a photo of Letcher Fire Department's Model T in the Parade of Lights in Mitchell in November, 2008. They received 2nd place for best use of lights!!

Here are some photos of the Letcher Fire Department's trucks.

Letcher Fire Department Fleet

Letcher Fire Department's First Fire Truck

History of Letcher Fire Department

The Letcher Volunteer Fire Department started when the first settlers came here. When they saw smoke they would grab anything that would hold water. It was this good neighbor attitude that was alive when Letcher got its first fire truck and it is still alive today.

The first fire equipment was a gas engine powered water pump and fire hose reel, which was a hand drawn cart.

The first Fire Hall was a two story building with a garage and walk-in door in the front. It had a stairway on the south side of the building that went up to the second story and town meetings were held there also. The Fire Hall had a water supply tank beneath it. The city artesian well flowed into this tank. The overflow was tiled into Letcher Lake. It was from this tank the gas pumper would get its water. The pump would then supply pressure to the fire hose. The fire hose was on a big round wheel. This reel would have to be rolled all the way to the fire, unrolling the hose along the way.

In January, 1923, Pug Wild's house burnt to the ground because the pump could not put out enough pressure for that much hose. After that it was decided that Letcher needed more protection, so the city bought the 1923 Model-T truck.

On December 4, 1924, a fire meeting was held and Harry Samis was named fire chief.

In 1931, Main Street burned down and the old fire hall burned along with the old gas pump and reel. Bud Bailey, who was a mailman, lived in the building and kept the fire going that heated the building. He was moved into the white fire hall on the south side of main street and lived there until the late 1950's when a furnace was put in.  The old brick firehouse-jail was sold to Ed Kane in 1972 for $600. One night when there was a fire, Bud Bailey chased the fire truck to Loomis to get his false teeth. He had left them on the back of the fire truck when he went to bed.

Harry Samis was the fire chief for 6 years and then Harry Askew was fire chief in the 1930's for 15 years. Glenn McClane became fire chief for 4 years, from 1945 until 1949, then Leo (Bozo) Styer became fire chief for 26 years, from 1949 to 1975.

In the 1960's, the fire department needed better protection so they got a 1950 GMC 250 gallon truck.The firemen went around and got donations for the truck but did not get enough money. That is when they decided to organize a fire district. It took 2 years to get this done. Leo Styer, Frank Parce and Paul VanOverschelde were able to persuade the townships to add a tax for the purpose of supporting the fire district fund.

Then, the Insurance Commission which rates fire departments and sets the insurance premium rates was going to raise the Letcher area rates if they did not get a stand-by truck. So, in May 1957, the 1947 REO was purchased from Huron.

In November, 1960, the townships decided to pay the firemen a wage of 50 cents a meeting and one dollar for a fire.

In the 1960's, a 1962 Ford tanker truck was purchased with a 1000 gallon tank. The cost of this truck was $28,000.

In 1962, an addition was built on to the fire hall to make room for all the fire trucks.

In February, 1972, the firemen's wages were raised to three dollars a man per fire.

In 1976, Rod Clarambeau was named Fire Chief. He held this position for six years.

In May, 1976, a 1976 Chevrolet fire truck was purchased with a 1,000 gallon tank at a cost of $36,000. When this truck was purchased the 1950 GMC was sold to Sheesley's Plumbing and Heating.

In June, 1980, the department purchased a 1980 Chevrolet fire truck. It has a 1,000 gallon tank and auxiliary pump and a mid-ship pump. It cost the fire district $30,000. The 1947 REO was sold to Robert Sonne at this time.

In 1980, the firemen's wages were raised to $5 a fire.

In the early 1960's, a fifteen home fire bar was put into the Letcher telephone exchange. This was changed in 1981 to a thirty phone bar. The fire bar would ring a continuous ring into the homes of all of the firemen and allow them to hear the caller report their emergency.

In 1980, Stanley Fouberg was the Fire Chief for 3 years, then Rod Clarambeau resumed the position of Fire Chief.

In 1983, the Model T Ford was repainted in honor of the Letcher Centennial.

The new fire hall was built in 1994 on Main Street to hold all of the fire equipment along with a rescue van. The department wanted to add another stall onto the fire hall so several of the firemen personally signed a loan to help pay for the addition and the fire department fundraised to repay the loan.

In the mid 1980's, after several serious car accidents in our community, some firemen and their wives took EMT training and some of the firemen took First Responder training so the department could be better trained for medical emergencies within the fire district. A rescue van and more rescue equipment were purchased.

The 1962 Ford tanker was sold to Chuck Amick.

In 2000, a 1985 fire truck was purchased with a 1000 PTO pump and a 1,000 gallon tank.

The Firemen received $10 per fire.

In 2006, a grass fire rig was made by the Fire Department.

In 2009, a 1987 Chevrolet, a 1,000 gallon per minute pumper with a 1,000 gallon tank, was purchased from the Keystone Fire Department with a donation from Chuck and Jane Amick.

In 2014, the firemen began receiving fire calls on their cell phones through a response service dispatched out of the 911 center. The fire bar through the telephone exchange that rings into homes is still in existence. This technology is becoming obsolete but will continue to be used as long as possible.

In 2014, fundraising began to build an addition onto the fire hall and community center. The groundbreaking was held on March 28, 2015. The addition will double the size of the fire hall.

In 2015, there are 28 Firemen and First Responders/EMTs on the roster. They still receive $10 per fire or emergency. According to the Fire Chief, when discussion is held about raising the pay for a fire, the firemen all vote to let it remain the same in order to devote more money to equipment.

Currently, Rod Clarambeau is Fire Chief (since 1983) and Chuck Amick is Assistant Fire Chief (since 1983). President of the Department is Brandon Manchester, Secretary is Cindy VanLaecken and Treasurer is Darin Amick.

The spirit of volunteering and having a good neighbor attitude is still alive and thriving in Letcher, SD.

FireFighter's Prayer
When I'm called to duty, God
Wherever flames may rage
Give me strength to save a life
Whatever be its age

Help me to embrace a little child
Before it is too late
Or save an older person
The horror of that fate

Enable me to be alert
To hear the weakest shout
And quickly and efficiently
Put the fire out

I want to fill my calling and
To give the best in me
To guard my neighbor and
Protect his property

And if according to your will
This is my final call
Bless with your protecting hands
My family one and all

Fireman's Spouse
This is dedicated to our spouses. Without their love and support
We would not be able to be Volunteer Firefighters.
The table is set, the meal's prepared,
our guests will soon arrive.
My spouse once more disappears
with a hope of keeping a child alive.
While waiting at home again alone,
our plans having gone awry.
My first impulse is merely to sit down and cry.
But soon again I realize the importance of my life
when I agreed to take on the duties of being a firefighters mate.
While there are many drawbacks,
I'll take them in my stride
The gusting winds and raging flames
may be his final fate,
But with God's help I can remain
my firefighter's faithful mate.

I Wish You Could See....

I wish you could see the sadness of a businessman as his livelihood goes up in flames, or that family returning home, only to find their house and belongings damaged or lost for good.

I wish you could know what it is like to search a burning bedroom for trapped children, flames rolling above your head, your palms and knees burning as you crawl, the floor sagging under your weight as the kitchen below you burns.

I wish you could comprehend a wife's horror at 3 a.m. as I check her husband of 40 years for a pulse and find none. I start CPR anyway, hoping to bring him back, knowing intuitively that it's too late. But, wanting his wife and family to know everything possible was done to save his life.

I wish you knew the unique smell of burning insulation, the taste of soot filled mucus, the feeling of intense heat through your turnout gear, the sound of the flames cracking, the eeriness of being able to see absolutely nothing in dense smoke-sensations that I've become to familiar with.

I wish you could understand how it feels to go to work in the morning after having spent most of the night, hot and soaking wet at a multiple alarm fire.

I wish you could read my mind as I respond to a building fire "Is this a false alarm or a working fire? How is the building constructed? What hazards await me? Is anyone trapped?" Or to an EMS call, "What is wrong with the patient? Is it minor or life-threatening? Is the caller really in distress or is he waiting for us with a 2 x 4 or a gun?"

I wish you could be in the emergency room, as the doctor pronounces dead the beautiful five year old girl that I have been trying to save during the past 25 minutes. Who will never go on her first date or say the words, "I love you mommy" again.

I wish you could know the frustration I feel in the cab of the engine or my personal vehicle, the driver with his foot pressed down hard on the pedal, my arm tugging again and again at the horn chain, as you fail to yield the right-of-way at the intersection or in traffic. When you need us however, your first comment upon our arrival will be, "It took you forever to get here!"

I wish you could know my thoughts as I help extricate a girl of teenage years from the remains of her automobile. "What if this was my sister, my girlfriend or my friend? What were her parents reaction going to be when they opened the door to find a police officer with hat in hand?"

I wish you could know how it feels to walk in the back door and greet my parents and family, not having the heart to tell them that I nearly did not come back from the last call.

I wish you could feel the hurt as people verbally, and sometimes physically, abuse us or belittle what I do, or they express their attitudes of "It will never happen to me".

I wish you could realize the physical, emotional and mental drain or missed meals, lost sleep and forgone social activities, in addition to all the tragedy my eyes have seen.

I wish you could know the brotherhood and self satisfaction of  helping save a life or of preserving someone's property, or being able to be there in time of crisis, or creating total order from chaos.

I wish you could understand what it feels like to have a little boy tugging at your arm asking, "Is Mommy ok?" Not being to look in his eye without tears in your own and not knowing what to say. Or to hold back a long time friend who watches his buddy having rescue breathing done on him as they take him away in an ambulance. You know all along he did not have his seat belt on. A sensation that I've become to familiar with.

Unless you have lived this kind of life, you'll never truly understand or appreciate who I am, we are, or what our job really means to us...

I wish you could though. (unknown author)