Lake Norden fire hall destroyed in devastating blaze, ongoing state investigation rules out foul play

May 17—LAKE NORDEN, S.D. — The state fire marshal's office has ruled out any suspicious cause of a Lake Norden fire hall blaze, which erupted in flames on May 3, destroying the building and all of the equipment inside it, as well as seven fire-fighting vehicles.

With the investigation pending, officials urged that although "the matter remains under investigation," the fire's cause has so far been determined to be "not suspicious in nature."

On May 3 at 5:30 a.m., fire departments from the neighboring towns of Estelline, Castlewood, Bryant, Hayti, and Badger responded to a call that smoke was erupting out of the Lake Norden fire department building. Upon arrival at the scene, fire fighters worked nearly six hours to put out the fire. However, the fire had already erupted by the time they got to the scene, and the building and the fire trucks were eventually lost. When all was said and done the building and all the fire equipment inside it had been destroyed, as well as five fire trucks and two ambulances.

"When we were called we were told flames were coming through the roof," said Estelline fire chief Max Quarter, who was one of the first on the scene. "There were fire trucks completely surrounding it. I couldn't see anything but white smoke and hoses. The roof [had] collapsed in, it had fallen straight into the building."

The fire is a massive loss for the volunteer-staffed Lake Norden fire department, who rely on tax dollars for funding. It could be years before the destroyed equipment is able to be fully replaced, said Roy Hauschildt, the Lake Norden fire marshall.

"We are a district entity. We get tax dollars in, but it's a very limited source for any budgetary needs," Hauschildt said. "It could be many years before we get back all the equipment we lost, depending on how everything comes together. They haven't let us back inside the building due to the ongoing investigation so I don't know exactly how much has been destroyed."

Quarter agreed that recovery will be a long road.

"The loss is huge," Quarter said. "One fire suit might cost three-thousand dollars, and they might last ten years. Funding is always a challenge for volunteer fire departments"

Efforts to recoup the costs of the losses have been started, with an account at the Lake Norden First Premier Bank that is currently accepting money from those who wish to help donate to the fire department, said Hauschildt.

In the meantime while rebuilding efforts are undergone by Lake Norden, coverage duties for the Lake Norden area will be split among volunteer fire departments in Hayti, Bryant, Badger and Estelline, each located approximately ten minutes north, south, east, and west of Lake Norden.