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The charred remains of a home in Tilford after a fire killed a firefighter and the homeowner Friday.
photo courtesy of Deb Holland.
The charred remains of a home in Tilford after a fire killed a firefighter and the homeowner Friday.

Firefighter, homeowner killed after fire destroys Tilford home


Gary Matthews - September 8, 2018

STURGIS, S.D. – Firefighters around the area are mourning the loss of one of their own after a tragic fire killed two people Friday evening.

Incident Information Officer Lt. Jim Bussell says 43-year-old David Fischer of Sturgis died after he was hit by a piece of propane tank that exploded as a result of the fire.

"As firefighters continued to battle the blaze, and search for an unaccounted individual, a nearby propane tank suffered a catastrophic failure and exploded. As a result of that explosion, a firefighter was killed. That firefighter, David Fischer, was a 32-year member of the Sturgis Volunteer Fire Department. Dave was also an active member of the Sturgis Ambulance Service. Dave leaves behind a wife and family. Dave was also a member of the 82nd Civil Support Team with the South Dakota Army National Guard."

Sturgis Fire Chief Shawn Barrows says Fischer was in the process of moving one of the department’s vehicles when he was struck by the tank. He estimates Fischer was maybe, 75 yards away.

Pieces of the tank were found as far away as over 350 yards.

Bussell says the individual they were searching for inside the home died as well. He identified the homeowner today as 82-year-old Raymond Bachmeier of Tilford. Backmeier’s remains were found this morning as firefighters began searching the charred rubble of the home.

Bussell says a Meade County Sheriff’s deputy was also hurt, and has been treated and released from Rapid City Regional Hospital. His name was not released.

Bussell says the cause of the fire is under investigation.

"The Meade County Sheriff's Office, the South Dakota Fire Marshals Office, the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives will be conducting the investigation into the incident. These agencies will also conduct an investigation into the cause and manner in which Mr. Bachmeier perished."

Meade County Sheriff Ron Merwin says the fire was difficult to fight. Along with propane tanks, the home involved was two mobile homes that had been put together.

"It was two mobile homes that were put side by side, so we had different types of siding and the contents of the two mobile homes made it difficult to fight the fire."

Furthermore, Merwin says there were downed power lines, at least two large buses, and other debris hampering efforts.

Merwin says the fire also caused damage to neighboring structures. The fire destroyed the primary residence as well as a number of outbuildings. Firefighters from nearly 30 different agencies responded.

Bussell says the South Dakota Local Assistance State Team, or LAST, has been requested to assist the Sturgis Fire Department with the aftermath of the tragedy.

"LAST is a collaborative effort between the Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance and the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation and local fire service agencies. LAST provides immediate assistance to department's dealing with a Line of Duty death."

Officials have also urged flags to fly at half-staff in Meade County until Firefighter Fischer’s services, which are currently pending.



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