Once upon a time, there was no rural fire protection as such. Where there was a fire family, friends and neighbors came to help or watch it burn. For several years the Aberdeen Fire Department would send a truck and two men if they were available and it wasn’t too far from town. In 1968 or 1969 there was a situation concerning expanding the city limits and the Mayor of Aberdeen said the city would no longer send help outside the city to fight fires.
It was actually the proper thing to do because the rural residents were not paying any taxes for fire protection. This put the responsibility on the individual townships to provide protection for their residents. After several meetings and possible solutions, it was decided that Aberdeen Township needed to start our own fire department.
With the help of Paul Blumhardt, who was a district forester with the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, and Al Weifenbach, who had some experience with the Columbia Fire Department, we organized as the Aberdeen Township Fire Department. Paul helped us get a truck through a program with the forestry department, a 1956 Dodge with a 200-gallon tank and a high-pressure pump.
At that point, Aberdeen Rural had a so called fire truck but no money, no protective gear, no training and no insurance. The truck was stored behind the sheriff’s office. At the beginning, before the 911 system, the fire calls would go to the Brown County Sheriff’s Office and they in turn would call each firefighter by phone. Aberdeen Rural eventually got some monitors that were the size of a small briefcase and we progressed to the paging system that we have now. Once a firefighter received a call, they would then go to the fire. When they were done, they would pool their money to fill the truck and pump with gas.
In 1970, George Dixon bought a 1939 Ford pumper fire truck and loaned it to us. Smith Truck Sales donated 1953 IHC Gas truck that the firefighters converted to use as a tanker. Taylor Hatchery allowed us to store both trucks in their heated garage for the winter.
Originally, Aberdeen Rural only provided protection for Aberdeen Township. As time went on other Townships asked for protection including Lincoln, Mercier, Carslile, Ravinia and Westport Townships, Westport Township later dropped out. More recently, the newly organized Prariewood Township joined our organization.
At about this time the firefighters decided that there should be two organizations, the Aberdeen Township Fire Department and the Aberdeen Rural Firefighters. The fire department would own the equipment and pay for the maintenance and the Aberdeen Rural Firefighters would man the equipment and do the minor maintenance and training.
In 1972, Aberdeen Township Fire Department assessed property owners twenty-five dollars each for protection to raise funds for our first new pumper. It was a 1972 International with a 750 gallon per minute pump with a 750 gallon water tank. Also, in 1972, Aberdeen Township sold their township hall, which stood where the Salvation Army building is now. The Aberdeen Township then built a new fire station and township hall.
Since then the Aberdeen Rural Fire Department has grown its apparatus fleet, number of members and professional nature of training in order to serve and protect the Aberdeen Township to the best of it’s ability.