New firefighter teams to assist families after line-of-duty deaths

PIERRE, S.D. - It was a weekend of training for public safety officials in Pierre, but the topic was a difficult one to discuss.

"This training is putting together a local assistant state team (LAST) for dealing with line-of-duty death," Charlie Kludt, president of the South Dakota Firefighters Association, said.

While it doesn't happen often in South Dakota, the state wants to be ready to help any fire department handle the loss of a firefighter or other public safety official.

Last Friday and Saturday, firefighters from across the state were training to become part of South Dakota's LAST teams.

"What this group of people in the fire service is doing is joining together to create a team to represent us when there's a line-of-duty death here in South Dakota," LAST teams coordinator John Proels said.

"So these teams will go out and help, whether it be the small department or the agency that might need assistance putting together the funeral and helping the family afterwards doing the paperwork, everything that goes along with the unfortunate accident," Kludt said.

In South Dakota's history, just over 40 firefighters have died in the line of duty.