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Firefighter who died in explosive fire identified

September 9, 2018

TILFORD — Fire officials say the firefighter who died in a house fire Friday was an assistant chief for the Sturgis Volunteer Fire Department.

David Fischer, 43, of Sturgis was killed when a propane tank near the house that was fully engulfed in flames experienced a catastrophic failure and ruptured in an event known as a Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion, or BLEVE.

Shortly after 4 p.m. Friday, firefighters responded to a report of the fire. Upon their arrival Sturgis firefighters found a single-family dwelling was fully engulfed in fire. Several outbuildings on the property and adjacent properties were catching fire or threatened, and a number of propane tanks were also threatened.

Firefighters made their initial attack , summoned mutual aid, and nearby residents were being evacuated. It was at this time that they learned of a missing individual last seen in the residence.

As they attempted to fight the fire and locate the missing person, a nearby propane tank exploded killing Fischer. Fischer was a 22-year member of the department and was an active member of the Sturgis Ambulance Service, and a staff sergeant with the 82nd Civil Support Team, South Dakota National Guard.

A Meade County sheriff deputy also was injured in the fire and was transported to a local hospital with non-life threatening injuries. He has since been released and is recovering at home. That deputy was not publically identified.

At 8 a.m. today, firefighters and law enforcement located the remains of missing person. He was identified as Raymond Joseph Bachmeier, of Tilford.

Fire crews remained on the scene as of 9 a.m. extinguishing the fire and hot spots. The primary residence was destroyed, and the exact number of outbuildings damaged or destroyed has not yet been determined.

Video of the scebe showed the home on fire with black smoke rising from the structure. A large explosion is then seen with a fireball rising far above nearby power poles.

Firefighters from nearly 30 different agencies responded to the scene.

The causes of the fire and Bachmeier’s death are under investigation by the Meade County Sheriff’s Office, the South Dakota Fire Marshal’s Office, the state Division of Criminal Investigation, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

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