A structure fire at a quadruplex on Edmunds Street in Sturgis on Monday morning displaced nine residents, highlighting the volunteer work of the Sturgis Volunteer Fire Department and local Red Cross volunteers.
The Sturgis Volunteer Fire Department responded to a call at 2:17 a.m. for a fire that broke out on the back deck of the structure in the 1100 block of Edmunds Street, according to the Sturgis Volunteer Fire Chief, Scott Lensegrav. The fire began to burn in the back of the house, Lensegrav said, and up to the ceiling and attic, before being extinguished around 2:47 a.m.
Nine residents were inside at the time, one of whom was sent to hospital with burns to his hands and smoke inhalation, Lensegrav said.
No other injuries were sustained by residents or firefighters. The cause of the fire is still under investigation. Sturgis Ambulance also responded.
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Red Cross volunteers Holly Bauer and Mona Smith were on hand Monday afternoon to help residents affected by the fire.
Richard Smith, executive director of the American Red Cross chapter serving central and western South Dakota, said Monday’s response was a typical voluntary response.
“It could be anytime, day or night,” he said.
Bauer and Mona Smith interviewed residents upon arrival. Of the quadruplex’s four units, they helped a single elderly woman, a grandmother and granddaughter, and five roommates. The occupant of the fourth unit was not home when the volunteers arrived, Bauer said.
Bauer described the aftermath as smoke damage to two of the units and “major damage” to the other two.
After interviewing residents to make sure everyone was okay, Bauer and Smith helped lead residents to stores where they could buy essentials such as clothing and hygiene items. Some of the residents were unable to return to their units – one walked out with nothing more than house shoes.
“Sometimes people just don’t have immediate funds, and they don’t realize it,” Bauer said. “Now I don’t have a toothbrush, I don’t have a comb – I don’t have anything right now.”
The Red Cross provides financial assistance, such as debit cards, to help cover some of these immediate needs.
Bauer has volunteered with the Red Cross for seven years and also volunteers with the Whitewood Auxiliary Fire Department. She and Smith, also a volunteer auxiliary, took all of their classes together.
“Most of the time we were already on stage anyway,” Bauer said. “So we thought, why not just take care of the customers too.”
The experience is humbling, Bauer said, seeing the reactions of people they are able to help.
“When they see you, it’s kind of a sigh of relief that feels like about 1,000 pounds just fell off their shoulders,” Bauer said.
Bauer and Smith stayed there for about two hours, she said. After initial help from volunteers, the Red Cross provides a case management team that continues to assist and check in with residents.
Richard Smith said the team will assess whether there are any mental health issues or other health concerns, such as helping them retrieve prescriptions and replacing medications that may have been lost in the fire.
The Red Cross also offers a preparedness program where they install free smoke detectors, Smith said. If someone doesn’t have one or needs a replacement, “we’ll put them in homes to help save lives,” he said.
The central and western South Dakota chapter responded to 114 fires last year, according to Smith. He estimated that they respond to a fire every three days. He and Bauer reiterated that they are always looking for volunteers. Those interested in volunteering with the Red Cross can visit redcross.org.
American Red Cross serving central and western South Dakota supports communities in Aurora, Bennett, Brule, Buffalo, Butte, Campbell, Charles Mix, Corson, Custer, Dewey, Douglas, Edmunds, Fall River counties , Faulk, Gregory, Haakon, Hand, Harding, Hughes, Hyde, Jackson, Jerauld, Jones, Lawrence, Lyman, McPherson, Meade, Mellette, Pennington, Perkins, Potter, Stanley, Sully, Todd, Tripp, Walworth and Ziebach, as well only seven sovereign tribal nations.
–Contact Laura Heckmann at [email protected]–