After a series of devastating fires, the Vermillion Hose Company No 1 was formed in 1892. CF Lotze was the first Fire Chief. Sixteen members of the volunteer company manned two hand-drawn hose carts and one hand drawn 40’ hook and ladder truck, with an inventory of 800 feet of hose, six spanners, four axes, ladders, nozzles and four pairs of rubber boots.
The newly organized Fire Department was soon put to the test when, in the early morning hours of Sunday, October 15, 1893, a disastrous fire started in the Old Main building on the University of South Dakota campus.
Reorganized in 1900, and under direction of Chief Egan and Chief Rasmussen, the Department received the community’s confidence and soon acquired a reputation for efficiency and professionalism. Thirty-two volunteer members trained weekly and proved themselves on the fire ground and at state conventions; they eventually became known as “the fire boys.”
In September 1913, the Department started providing fire protection for rural areas of Clay County, limited to sending men and some equipment. In 1923, with the purchase of its first motorized apparatus, the Department started providing full fire protection for surrounding rural communities.
In 1949, the first-aid rescue squad manned by volunteer firefighters was initiated. The squad provided emergency medical and rescue services; all firefighters assigned to the EMS squad attended first aid training. Ambulance services were provided by the Wagner-Iverson funeral home. Working together, the Fire Department and the funeral home provided emergency medical services for Vermillion and surrounding Clay County communities.
In 1971, with an ambulance from Iverson and equipment from the Fire Department’s first-aid squad, the Vermillion Ambulance Service (later called Vermillion Clay County EMS) was organized. With Frank Hard, a Vermillion police officer, as the first EMS director and volunteer firefighters staffing the organization, the service assumed all emergency medical duties. Although their origins were separate, fire and EMS continued to work together, and over the years, they shared resources and remained housed in the same station.
In 1978, the Ambulance Department, with funding from Clay County, acquired a second ambulance and University of South Dakota students comprised 50% of ambulance personnel.
In 2006, with a very generous donation from Ivan Pierce, the Department was able to purchase a four-story training tower. Constructed by the volunteer firefighters, this facility gives firefighters a safe training area for fire and rescue training. The area has now expanded to include a space for vehicle extrication and other simulations; the training area is also available to all surrounding area departments.
On January 2015, the city Fire Department and Vermillion/Clay County EMS (VCCEMS) consolidated, forming the Vermillion Fire EMS Department. Today fire and EMS divisions are still staffed using separate membership rosters, but they share training, equipment, and budgets. This change has resulted in financial savings and service improvement. Today, our department is diverse and stronger than ever, consisting of two entities working under one command structure.
The Rural Fire Department, funded by county taxes and donations, provides fire and rescue for Clay County. The Department is staffed with 39 dedicated volunteer firefighters and maintains a fleet of 10 rural fire trucks. The City Fire EMS Department, funded by the City of Vermillion, provides fire protection for the City of Vermillion and EMS for Clay County. Staffed by full-time Chief officers and part-time EMS staff, we depend on the Rural Department firefighters to also staff the City fire trucks. Volunteer firefighters staff both City and rural firetrucks to provide service.
The Vermillion Fire EMS Department is a progressively minded combination department serving the City of Vermillion and the surrounding Clay County area. We provide fire protection, emergency medical, and rescue services, as well as an enthusiastic and dynamic public education program for the community. We are able to accomplish this because of our strong working relationship with the City of Vermillion, Clay County.
Our department currently operates out of two stations consisting of 36 volunteer firefighters, 25 part-time EMTs / Paramedics, 1 full-time Fire Marshal, 1 part-time Administrative Assistant, and 2 career Chief Officers.