The Northern Great Plains Interagency Dispatch Dispatch Center was evicted from their facility at the Rapid City Regional Airport. On January 9 they became operational in a brand new building located south of Rapid City adjacent to the new Black Hills National Forest Mystic Ranger District office at 8123 South Highway 16, Rapid City, SD 57702.
During most of the decade of the 1990s, there were few large fires in the Northern Great Plains area, which includes western South Dakota, northeast Wyoming, and northwest Nebraska. Then there were several large fires in 2000 and 2001 which demonstrated the need for a coordinated dispatch center in an area where previously each land management agency handled their own dispatching. Then-Governor Bill Jankow, who died January 12 of brain cancer, was instrumental in finding the location and funding for what became the Northern Great Plains Interagency Dispatch Center (NGPIDC). Most of the $1.8 million in funds to retrofit the old unused passenger terminal at the airport came from the State of South Dakota. The first 3-year lease for the building was signed in 2001 and after gutting the interior, building new walls and offices, and installing communications systems and a backup generator, it was put into service in 2003.
The FAA, which has a great deal of control over how land and facilities are used at airports, began complaining soon after the NGPIDC moved in, saying they were not aware until then that there was a new tenant at the airport. The lease was extended for another 3 years in 2004, but in 2006 the FAA sent an eviction letter claiming that the space was needed for hangars and other aeronautical uses. The airport and the NGPIDC argued the case that the dispatch center needed to remain, but the writing was on the wall and fire managers and government officials began looking around for alternatives.
In 2009 the U.S. Congress earmarked approximately $2 million for a new facility, thanks to support from Senators John Thune and Tim Johnson, and Representative Stephanie Herseth as well as some elected officials in Wyoming. Groundbreaking occurred in October of 2010, the building was complete in December of 2011, and the move-in process began. The new building has space for several offices, consoles for approximately a half-dozen dispatchers, and a large room which can be used for expanded dispatch during major emergency incidents, or for training during the off-season.
The agencies that are served by the NGPIDC include: Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, South Dakota State Wildland Fire Suppression Division, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, Wyoming Forestry Division, and the Nebraska Forest Service.
The new phone numbers at the NGPIDC are 605-716-2738, 800-275-4955, and Fax 605-343-5075.
The South Dakota State Wildland Fire Suppression Division has offices for several of their employees in the dispatch center at the airport which will have to be moved before the airport bulldozes the building. The last I heard they were still uncertain about their new location.
I stopped by to check out the new facility on Wednesday, and Sheri Fox, Center Manager, was kind enough to let me take some photos. It turned out that a Fire Science class from Western Dakota Tech was just beginning a tour, so I tagged along.
Here are some photos I took of the new facility: