Onida Fire Department Ambulance

From its founding days more than a century ago, the Onida Volunteer Fire Department has operated through the unpaid, volunteer efforts of the firefighters.

As an offshoot of the Onida Volunteer Fire Department, the Onida Ambulance Service was begun in March 1956. This endeavor, too, is supported entirely on a volunteer basis, with individuals committing the 180 hours needed to complete the advance training to becoming an Emergency Medical Technician in advance of their volunteer response to ambulance calls.

‘Fire Department Buys Ambulance for Sully Use’ heralded the February 28, 1957 issue of the Onida Watchman. The story under the banner read, ‘Through action taken by the Onida Fire Department this week, Sully County will now have the services of an ambulance for all emergency cases, night or day.’

The story continues relating the department’s intention to pay the $1,200 cost of the vehicle ‘entirely from their own funds.’ The ambulance service has continued in this vein – ‘entirely from their own funds’ – ever since.

The volunteer commitment of the individual members is reflected in the accolades the department has received. The Onida Fire Department Ambulance Service was named South Dakota Emergency Medical Service of the Year in 2000 and in 2020, and was named Friend of Rodeo by the Sully County Fairboard in 2021 for their contributions to the success of the fair with their presence on standby just outside the arena during the Catfish Stampede Rodeo to tend to any of the wranglers who might suffer a mishap.

Ambulance operations run solely on donations received and proceeds from billing for ambulance runs; no county or city tax revenues are used in support of the ambulance service. The volunteers receive no pay or stipends for runs, and the department does not run an on-call schedule for EMT’s.

OFD emt/firefighters spend 100s of hours yearly training and on calls to make sure all of Sully County has a very high level care when the 911 tone drops on their pagers.