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Standing Rock Sioux forming volunteer firefighter program

October 6, 2018

FORT YATES, N.D. (AP) — The Standing Rock Sioux tribe has formed a volunteer firefighter program, with a long-term goal of creating a full-time fire department on the reservation that straddles the North Dakota-South Dakota border.

The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs has a wildfire team on the 3,600-square-mile reservation, but the tribe has never had a fire station nor a group of people trained to fight structure fires.

“If we have a fire, the house just burns to the ground,” tribal Emergency Manager Elliott Ward told The Bismarck Tribune.

The tribe used a grant of about $260,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to recruit and train volunteers for the Akicita Fire Program. Up to 18 men have been training since April, and they recently conducted a mock fire drill.

“It’s been a learning experience. A lot of knowledge in a short period of time,” said volunteer Wyatt Red Tomahawk. “The community doesn’t have a structural fire department, so it’d be nice to be a part of the foundation that’s being laid for future firefighters.”

The volunteers will graduate in about a month from the program being managed by Bismarck-based Heartland Consulting Group. More volunteers will start training next March.

Tribal Chairman Mike Faith said the goal is to eventually have fire stations on both sides of the border, in Fort Yates in North Dakota and either Little Eagle or McLaughlin in South Dakota.

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Information from: Bismarck Tribune, http://www.bismarcktribune.com

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