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House fire results in firefighter rescue

A house fire on Poplar Avenue that started at 1:30 a.m. Jan. 15 left a family displaced and a fire department that had to perform an emergency rescue.

The Tea Fire Department got the call and responded along with their mutual aid from Sioux Falls and Harrisburg. Incident commander and first assistant chief Steve Oberle was the first on scene and said about 35 firefighters battled the blaze in brisk temperatures.

He noted the family made it out safely and were already outside when firefighters arrived on scene. The home had working smoke detectors and they speculate that the fire started in the kitchen area.

During the call, one firefighter fell through a floor that collapsed, causing him to send out a mayday. At that point, Oberle ordered for operations to cease and activated their Rapid Intervention Team (RIT).

The team of three grabbed a couple more guys to go in after the distressed firefighter and got him safely out in less than five minutes. Oberle credits the quick response to the firefighter in distress who remained calm and gave good directions to where he was, and to the firefighter who stayed near him to help direct the RIT team and to the RIT team for acting quickly.

“It went as smooth as any rescue could go because of the firefighter that went through the floor gave good directions and gave good assistance on what he needed to get him out, the firefighter stayed there to show where he’s at and the guys themselves that brought the equipment in to grab to get him out,” Oberle said. “If we ever have to call a mayday again, I hope that it can go as smooth as that one did.”

Oberle said the firefighter has some minor bumps and bruises but he is doing okay. As part of their training, firefighters are taught to talk about their experiences with others to keep from bottling up their emotions. Tea’s firefighters have been doing that this week.

“It’s a call we train for, but it’s a call we hope we never have to make. It was high emotion, still high emotion. We got through it as a department like we always do,” he said.

Oberle said the family seems to be doing okay. Shawn Broderick, a Tea Area High School graduate, has set up a GoFundMe campaign at to help the family.

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