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Lembcke takes charge of Brandon Fire Dept.
Roster of 29 has room for 11 more
By By Jill Meier
Challenger editor

November 04. 2013 2:28PM
A Brandon man with 18 years of volunteer firefighting experience is now chief of the Brandon Volunteer Fire Department.

Gary Lembcke, 44, was elected to the leadership position of the 29-member crew at the BVFD’s annual meeting last week. He succeeds Robert Dyskstra, who steps into his new role as 2nd Assistant Chief.

“It’s exciting and scary as heck, but it’s very much a team effort,” said Lembcke, whose most recent assignment with the department was that of 1st Assistant Chief.
“As the outgoing Chief Dykstra said, ‘We’re at a pivotal point in our department. We have a very young department, and going forward we have a lot of training to do.’ ”

To the community’s fortune, Lembcke said the department is summoned to few structure fires each year, which in turn provides few real-life firefighting experiences for the young crew.

“Most of our stuff is medical calls,” Lembcke said. “But with that we’re doing more and more kinds of things, not necessarily cats in the trees kinds of stuff, but more things like there’s an odd smell or the ice storm when we ran lots of calls but very few were fire related.”

According to the organization’s September year-end report, the call volume for the year was down from a projected 650 calls to 529. A significant part of that decrease was due to the change made earlier this year in dispatch protocol.

In March, Brandon firefighters were no longer being dispatched to Code 1 and 2 calls within the city limits. This change resulted in approximately 103 fewer calls, according to data supplied by Metro Communications.

“We were getting the guys burned out,” Lembcke said. “Now when we have medical calls in the evening, we’ll have nine guys or so show up; it used to be four.”

The recent year-end reports shows the BVFD responded to 223 Code 1 (non-emergency) calls, 234 Code 3 (emergency) calls, and 21 Code 4 (imminent life and death) calls. Of the 478 calls, 394 or 82 percent occurred in the city limits; 84 or 18 percent were rural.

Another goal Lembcke will focus on over the next two years is recruitment. Currently staffed with 29, the BVFD roster has room for 40, he said.

Requirements to be a member of the BVFD are few: Must live within Brandon Township, be at least 21 years of age, have a desire to help the community and do a lot more than just fight fires, Lembcke said.

Fellow firefighter and BVFD Board member Matt Cerwick said Lembcke will be a good leader for the department.

“He’s one of the most trusted firefighters on our department, and a lot of guys look up to him for his expertise,” Cerwick said. “We’re a very young department, so experience is key and extremely valuable.”

In addition to answering fire calls and training, the BVFD – the busiest volunteer fire department in the county – carries out two fundraisers each year: a spring dance and a fall pancake breakfast.

“The days of grants are gone, so as those dry up, we thank the people for the attending our annual fundraisers,” Lembcke said.

This past year, the department was selected as Automania’s main charity organization, garnering a significant donation from the event proceeds. Department members manned beverage booths at large-scale car show extravaganza.

“It’s probably one of the easiest things we’ve ever done, and we want to give a big thank you to the organizers of Automania for choosing us,” Lembcke said.

The BVFD is also funded by three additional sources: the city of Brandon, Minnehaha County and Brandon Township.

“The City of Brandon has been extremely generous to us, not only financially but with the backing of the City Council, and in the last five years we’ve been able to update a large portion of our fleet,” Lembcke said.

Lembcke’s 18 years of volunteer firefighter service includes an eight-year stint with the Black Hawk, S.D., Fire Department, where he left as its assistant chief, and three years with his hometown department in Ramona, S.D.
Location: 401 N. Sioux Blvd.

Phone: 582-8436


Interested in joining: Email Chief Gary Lembcke at

Leadership: Chief Gary Lembcke; 1st Assistant Chief Dustin Wagner; 2nd Assistant Chief Robert Dykstra; Chief of EMS Pam Thorson; Captains John Hanssen, Jeremy Neitzeland Ryan Greene; Board of Directors – President Matt Cerwick; Vice president Ryan Greene; Treasurer James Wagner; John Hanssen; Director Rob Thorson.

Gary Lembcke was elected by his peers to serve as chief of the Brandon Volunteer Fire Department for the next two years. Photo by Jill Meier

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