How To Become A Firefighter In South Dakota


how to become a firefighter in south dakota

If you’ve ever wondered how to become a firefighter in South Dakota, you’ve come to the right place.

South Dakota is a state full of many different cultures and communities, all spread out across diverse counties. People come to the state to visit the Black Hills but soon realize that there is much more to the state.

Firefighters in South Dakota face many challenges with the weather and citizen safety, but also with funding and opportunities to train.

How to Become a Firefighter in South Dakota

  • Firefighters must annually pass the Individual Physical Ability Test (IPAT).
  • Graduation from high school or GED certification, or any such combination of education, experience, and training as may be acceptable to the hiring authority.
  • Must possess or be able to obtain, prior to hire, a valid driver’s license.
  • Applicants must be at least 21 years of age at the time of the entrance civil service examination, and no greater than 44 years of age at the time of the entrance civil service examination.
  • Vision must be correctable to at least 20/30 in each eye.
  • Must be a nonsmoker.
  • Applicant must pass all phases of the hiring process designated by the Rules of the Civil Service Board.
  • Must possess or be able to obtain, National Registry or South Dakota Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) certification within one year of hire

As you can see, there isn’t much to worry about when it comes to applying for a role in a volunteer service or to start the application process.

The problems come in finding a place to train and acquiring all the necessary knowledge to progress with your career.

In this guide, I want to look at what it means to be a South Dakota firefighter. This means looking at the different landscapes and operations that you will face as well as some of the cultural differences in the counties. I will then talk about the training options that are available and the different departments in the state.

Firefighting in South Dakota

The bare minimum qualifications I mentioned above apply to pretty much all the volunteer departments in the state and some entry-level positions in cities.

Further restrictions and expectations will vary depending on the department and the roles undertaken.

For example, each department will have its own approach to the firefighter interview process and expectations on future training courses.

There is also the fact that applicants in Sioux Fall can’t be younger than 21 when they take their civil service exam. This is much older than most departments in the US.

Firefighters in this state don’t just put out fires. The roles you will take on as part of your new fire department will vary.

Fire suppression is a big part of the fire service here as crews protect the many citizens living and working in their jurisdiction.

However, there are also lots of other services such as medical responses, emergency aid in natural disasters and dealing with wildfire control. Flood, storm and wildfire risks are common out in rural South Dakota.

The east and west of South Dakota are divided by the Missouri River, which can burst its banks in bad weather.

The landscape of the state is also largely dominated by the Black Hills. Mount Rushmore and the surrounding parks draw in countless tourists and this means an increased risk of fire and danger to life if a wildfire occurs.

Crews in these rural regions need to know how to handle these fires and protect the communities.

Native American firefighters in South Dakota

As of the 2010 census, the population of the state was 84.7% white and 8.8% American Indian and Alaskan native.

There are strong communities of Lakota, Dakota and Nakota natives in different counties in South Dakota. Five state counties comprise of Indian reservations.

This means a need for well-trained and well-funded crews that represent these communities. One such example is the Rosebud Volunteer Fire & Rescue Department.

They aim to provide fire suppression and prevention services within their local reservation to look after life and property in the area. You can learn more about this area here.

Native fire departments must get the same support and funding in South Dakota as those in white communities. Unfortunately, this hasn’t always been the case.

A few years ago, The Californian San Manuel Band of Mission Indians gave $1 million to the Oglala Sioux tribe to help them develop their own fire department.

The money would go to firefighting operations and training within the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. You can read more on this interesting story here.

Fire Academies in South Dakota

Unfortunately, it isn’t just the Sioux communities that lack access to training in South Dakota. Like their neighbors in North Dakota, residents here don’t have access to fire science or technology courses in the state.

The closest degree programs for on-campus attendance are in neighboring states, which isn’t all that practical.

Some do offer online access to fire courses and this could be a good compromise for those interested in higher education.

One alternative is to simply use the training offered by the fire department. Some will allow people to join with limited training and give a boot-camp style training course to those that pass the interview stage.

From there, those on probation are often expected to continue their studies while on duty. This could mean additional certification in wildland fire management, hazmat training or skills with specialist equipment.

It is a good idea to take any basic firefighting course that is available and an EMT course. This provides the right knowledge for Firefighter 1 certification and allows you to attend medical emergencies.

The South Dakota Firefighters Association is a great resource for all those struggling to make the grade and in need of further assistance.

This group offers training and guidance on all the main principles of the profession. This includes information on how to manage emergencies efficiently, how to improve outreach programs with the community and general strategies for prevention and suppression.

This is a vital resource that helps improve the quality of the service across the state. You can learn more about this group by following this link.

Major Fire Departments in South Dakota

While there may not be a lot of training options in South Dakota, there are several great departments to join.  The following is a list of some of those departments and their requirements.

How to Become a Rapid City, SD Firefighter

  • Firefighters must annually pass the Individual Physical Ability Test (IPAT).
  • Graduation from high school or GED certification, or any such combination of education, experience, and training as may be acceptable to the hiring authority.
  • Must possess or be able to obtain, prior to hire, a valid driver’s license.
  • Applicants must be at least 21 years of age at the time of the entrance civil service examination, and no greater than 44 years of age at the time of the entrance civil service examination.
  • Vision must be correctable to at least 20/30 in each eye.
  • Must be a nonsmoker.
  • Applicant must pass all phases of the hiring process designated by the Rules of the Civil Service Board.
  • Must possess or be able to obtain, National Registry or South Dakota Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) certification within one year of hire

Rapid City is one of the closest departments to Mount Rushmore and the Black hills surrounding it. They talk about the fact that incidents in their jurisdiction are on the rise. They need to be able to handle all these cases in a range of situation from medical help to wildfires, basic fire suppression and chemical incidents.

In fact, they say that 72% of calls in 2016 were medical. They need a focused, well-trained team of firefighters with the best medical qualifications to handle the incidents in the area.

But, there is also a need for more specialist training on water rescue, hazmat responses and work with their aircraft at the department’s airport.

You can find out more about the roles and expectations here by heading here.

How to Become a Sioux Falls, SD Firefighter

  • Firefighters must annually pass the Individual Physical Ability Test (IPAT).
  • Graduation from high school or GED certification, or any such combination of education, experience, and training as may be acceptable to the hiring authority.
  • Must possess or be able to obtain, prior to hire, a valid driver’s license.
  • Applicants must be at least 21 years of age at the time of the entrance civil service examination, and no greater than 44 years of age at the time of the entrance civil service examination.
  • Vision must be correctable to at least 20/30 in each eye.
  • Must be a nonsmoker.
  • Applicant must pass all phases of the hiring process designated by the Rules of the Civil Service Board.
  • Must possess or be able to obtain, National Registry or South Dakota Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) certification within one year of hire

Sioux Falls is the largest of the cities in South Dakota, thus they are largest fire department in order to look after their citizens.

There are only 187,200 residents here, which again highlights the sparse density of the population.

The crew is made up of 208 members, who are spread out over 11 fire stations at this ISO Class 1 department.

The expectations of recruitment are pretty standard other than the age restriction mentioned above.

Applicants must complete their IPAT test (similar to a CPAT test), civil service exam and oral interview.

Those that are successful will attend the Recruit Academy for about thirteen weeks.

This culminates in a 12-month probationary period with further training. You can learn more about the department here.

How to Become a Pierre, SD Firefighter

  • Firefighters must annually pass the Individual Physical Ability Test (IPAT).
  • Graduation from high school or GED certification, or any such combination of education, experience, and training as may be acceptable to the hiring authority.
  • Must possess or be able to obtain, prior to hire, a valid driver’s license.
  • Applicants must be at least 21 years of age at the time of the entrance civil service examination, and no greater than 44 years of age at the time of the entrance civil service examination.
  • Vision must be correctable to at least 20/30 in each eye.
  • Must be a nonsmoker.
  • Applicant must pass all phases of the hiring process designated by the Rules of the Civil Service Board.
  • Must possess or be able to obtain, National Registry or South Dakota Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) certification within one year of hire

Pierre is the state capital and home to another of the largest fire departments in South Dakota.

Again, the rules in Pierre are simple. You have to be 18 years old, in possession of a state driver’s license and live within the vicinity. This is because the Pierre department is a volunteer service.

There are only 14,000 people in the city, so it only needs a small crew of 55.

But, crew members require training in water rescue and similar skills. That is because the department has a rescue squad and dive rescue to aid all those on the banks of the river. Find out more here.

Job Prospects for South Dakota Firefighters

It is difficult not to compare the prospects for firefighters for both South and North Dakota as they had similar rates of employment according to the Bureau of Labor Statistic report.

In South Dakota, there were 570 employed firefighters with 1.34 posts per 1000 jobs. North Dakota’s figures were a little higher with 590 employed and 1.42 posts per 1000 jobs.

The difference in the average salary is noticeable. South Dakota firefighters got $44,710 as a mean average per year.

https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes332011.htm#st

A lack of funding in South Dakota hasn’t made it easy for either Sioux tribes or other communities to form large, well-equipped departments. There are also those issues with the lack of training facilities in the state.

However, those that want to learn how to become a firefighter in South Dakota can begin as a volunteer and work their way up.

Volunteer with a small department, use the firefighter associations training courses and build knowledge.

Before long, you could be in a paid role in a larger city dealing with all kinds of fires, wild land management, flood relief, water rescues and much more.

FirefighterNOW

I’m Mike, I’m a full time firefighter/paramedic/diver for a department just west of Cleveland, Ohio and the founder of FirefighterNOW. I’m also a columnist for FireRescue1. If you’re reading this blog my guess is you are interested in the fire service. There's information on fitness, gear, interviews, tests and more. I hope you find what you're looking for.

Recent Posts