The Fire Critic and make South Dakota!

There is a lot more than corn and soy beans growing in South Dakota …. the BROTHERHOOD is not only alive and well out there, it’s flourishing!

Rhett ( ) and I have just returned from a 5 day tour across the state. It was another unbelievable experience for us!

Bob Gard, a good friend, Brother and Canton SD firefighter; created the South Dakota Firefighter’s Benefit . His idea was to bring the firefighters of South Dakota and surrounding areas together in an effort to share in the Brotherhood while raising money for various Fire Service organizations that are solely funded through donations. The event was the first of it’s kind for South Dakota!

This year, Bob chose to support The National Fallen Firefighter’s Foundation as well as the National Firefighters Endowment. With the Benefit itself being not for profit, after all the bills are paid; the remaining funds will be split between the two organizations.

Bob did it up BIG and pulled off a great event.  He chose me and Rhett to be the guest speakers for the event but he didn’t stop there. He also came up with the idea to bring us out early in an effort to promote the event by traveling across the state visiting various Departments, members etc.

Click HERE to learn more and book us for your event!

It was no easy task …. so he enlisted the help of several local businesses / companies that I’ll list along the way.

To begin with, I should mention that Shane Parkins (President of The National Firefighter’s Endowment) made the entire trip with us as well. Although Rhett and I have been working closely with the NFE and Shane over the past year, this was the first time we’ve met in person.

We all flew in to Rapid City South Dakota where Bob and Gary picked us up in a Spartan ERV fire truck. YEA … they picked us up in a brand new fire truck that we toured across the entire state in! If you haven’t seen or checked out a Spartan ERV truck … use that link above and check em out …. it was a GREAT rig.

Our first stop was Mount Rushmore….WOW! I had no idea.


If I forgot to mention it, this was the first time either of us had been to South Dakota so obviously, it was our first time to Mount Rushmore (We would also make other “tourist” type stops at places such as Deadwood, Walls Drug and more).

Mount Rushmore was so much more amazing in person than what I had imagined.

Rhett and I managed to get us “off schedule” right from the start because we took the time to visit the museum, look at the photographs, watch the videos etc.

We were like kids on a field trip and both thought and of the hopes of being able to take our children (grandchildren) there some day.

After Bob and Gary pulled us off the mountain, we stopped in to say hello to the Brothers at the Keystone fire Department.

It was a great visit!

The Brothers on duty (it’s actually a combination Department) gave us the grand tour.

One of the coolest things that we learned while there was that they are the ONLY Department in the United States licensed (or allowed) to use the Mount Rushmore “logo”.


We left Keystone and headed back to Rapid City. There, we would visit a couple stations including #4 as well as their Headquarters. It was there that we got yet another pleasant surprise.

These Brothers and Sisters had a 1929 American LaFrance  in storage.

The truck was actually in very good shape, all things considered.

The truck was original to Rapid City but later found it’s way to the Dobson Antique Toy and Firehouse Museum in Michigan.

The Museum began to liquidate their pieces and contacted the Brothers and Sisters of Rapid City to see if they wanted her back. Well heck yea! Anyway, the good news is that she’s back where she belongs. They even let Rhett and I take a seat on her. We could have stayed there all night but it was right at 6pm and we didn’t want to delay their meal. I can’t wait to get back to South Dakota and see how the refurb turns out!

From there, we headed to the Firehouse Brewing Company for dinner. The restaurant is actually and old firehouse in Rapid City…. not just ANY house either. This was the house that the antique ladder actually ran out of!  How cool is that?!?

We have to say a special THANK YOU to the Firehouse Brewing Company because they hosted us for dinner. Yea … while planning the itinerary, Bob had told them that we were heading to town, why we were there and what we were doing. They  insisted that we not only eat there but that they pick up the tab! If you’re ever in Rapid City, South Dakota … stop and eat at the Firehouse Brewing Company!

It was at dinner where Shane presented me and Rhett  with yet another unbelievable gift.

Custom computer bags made by Evon Cassier Bags!

Find them on Face Book or their Web Site HERE

These bags are AWESOME!

It took me a minute to figure out but then it hit me. I thought it looked too good. Too familiar if you will. Then it hit me …. this was from my father’s turnout coat! Talk about the perfect gift! OMG … I have to admit that my eyes may have watered up just a bit. That someone would think enough of me to do something of this caliber …. something that means so much to me. WOW!

You can buy your own through the links above OR simply join the NFE’s Officer’s Club (at the Chief level) where you’ll be eligible to win the one they’re giving them away this month!

It was also where Bob presented us with the custom painting pictured at the top right of this post. He actually had two of them made … one for each of us! They were done by Darrell Fitch of Fire Medic  You can also find them on Face Book HERE . All you have to do is visit the sites or click the photo above to see the detail Darrell puts into his work. You can rest assured that these two will be framed and hanging with Pride!

Leaving Rapid City, we headed out for Deadwood. Along the way, we made a stop by the Sturgis Volunteer Fire Department. Of course Sturgis is most famous for their yearly motorcycle rally but to me, it’s their Fire Department that really shines! The Chief even came it out (at like 10:30 / 11:00 pm) and provided a fantastic tour. These guys were actually excited to have us out!

From there, we headed out for Dead Wood and the Historic Franklin Hotel!

I was VERY excited! I know a little about the history of Deadwood and couldn’t wait to walk the streets.

The Hotel was more than I could have imagined. Old fashioned, yet somewhat modern and very clean. They even have a casino in the lobby! How many chances do ya get to be dealt a hand in Deadwood?

The picture to the rights tells a lot of the story.

In all of our travels, this is the first hotel that Rhett and I have stayed at that actually had and used REAL room keys! No kidding … if you’re even in or near Deadwood, STAY at the Silverado Franklin Hotel!

The next morning, we were up bright and early for a visit and tour of the Deadwood Volunteer Fire Station.

Yea… the Chief and members were up at 6am to show us their hospitality.

To us, that screams PRIDE and Brotherhood!

It was another GREAT tour and a good kick off for the day!

From Deadwood, we had another long day and headed east. The ride was amazing! The views were spectacular!

There were several times that I had to pinch myself to realize I wasn’t dreaming.


Of course we were tired but it was well worth it!

Thanks to Gary’s driving,  and Spartan ERV  for giving us enough room; we were able to catch a quick nap when needed.

It’s not the first time either of us have slept in a fire truck …LOL

Of course when you’re riding with a bunch like we were ….. the naps don’t last long. Someone would “accidentally” stand on the air horn or the three of them would scream “OH MY GOD” as Gary got on the brakes etc ….

LMAO … they took about 10 years off my life (I’m surprised the videos haven’t made it up yet but I’m sure they will).

Anyway, it was a long ride across the state but again, WELL WORTH IT.

The guys thought I was nuts but I even had em stop along the road just so I could get a picture of the land.

The shot to the left is one of my favorites from the trip.

I needed about 2 or 3 more weeks out there to take in everything I wanted to.

I’m not even half way through the trip yet and the post is getting a little long. In an effort to save your eyes (and keep you I’ll stop here for the night and follow up with parts #2 and maybe even a #3 for the trip.

Thanks as always for following along …. be sure to check back for the rest of the story! **UPDATE** Find part #2 HERE and Part #3 HERE 

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Until then, stay SAFE and in House!

Captain Wines