STURGIS — It has taken prayer, and unwavering support from family, friends and co-workers to get Shawn Fischer through the past year.
Her husband, Dave, was killed at a fire in Tilford on Sept. 7, 2018.
“Dave gave the ultimate sacrifice for each and every one of us. He died a hero,” Shawn Fischer said.
Dave Fischer, 43, a member of the Sturgis Volunteer Fire Department, died in the line of duty during a structure fire at Tilford. The home’s resident, 82-year-old Raymond Bachmeier of Tilford, also died in the blaze.
Investigators determined Dave Fischer was killed instantly when he was struck by a 500-gallon propane tank that exploded during the fire. When it blew, half of the tank, about a four-foot section, traveled about 75 yards to the east and the other half about 350 yards to the west
Fischer was attempting to move a Sturgis VFD command vehicle, a Chevrolet Suburban, parked in a driveway north and east of the burning home. A large portion of the exploding tank cleared the burning home, a fire engine and the Suburban and struck Fischer. After it hit Fischer, it continued on and lodged in a well house further to the east.
Dave Fischer served as the assistant chief and was a 22-year member of the Sturgis Volunteer Fire Department. He was also an active member of the Sturgis Ambulance Service. In addition to his service to the Sturgis community as a firefighter and EMT, Dave Fischer was a member of the 82nd Civil Support Team with the South Dakota National Guard.
Shawn Fischer said the year has been an emotional roller-coaster.
“The first couple months were a complete blur,” she said from behind her desk at the Sturgis Fire Hall.
Fischer said she never could have made it through the year without the support she had from her employees at the Sturgis Ambulance Service where she serves as director. She also thanks her employer, the city of Sturgis, and many individuals within the community.
“There is no way that I will be able to thank everybody enough for all they did,” she said.
Also lending support were Dave’s fellow National Guardsmen and first responders from across the state of South Dakota.
“The support that first responders showed not just for me, but also the kids and Dave’s family was unbelievable,” she said.
On the day Dave Fischer died, he actually had taken the day off work and was at the family’s home near Piedmont doing odd jobs.
“When I called him to tell him we had been paged out, he told me to call the station and make sure his gear was in the first truck headed to the fire,” she said.
Shawn Fischer was at the Sturgis Supermoto Race serving, as she and her husband had for the past several years, presenting the colors last year on the day of Dave’s accident.
She carriers a portable scanner, but did not hear the traffic about what transpired on the scene of the fire on the day of Dave’s accident.
“Shawn Barrows, (Sturgis fire chief) worried that I would hear it on the radio, so he called me immediately to tell me. Dave’s death was immediate. There was nothing they could do,” she said.
Her reaction was visceral.
“I hit the ground screaming,” she said.
Shawn Fischer called her and Dave’s children, along with his family and close friends to tell them that Dave had been killed.
When she returned to the fire station that night, a huge contingent of first responder families were already there to give her support.
When a fatality happens at an active fire, the body must remain on scene until a fire marshal can investigate, Shawn Fischer said. So, Dave’s body was not returned to Sturgis until after dark that night.
“We went down and met them, and gave him a procession to the funeral home,” she said.
Shawn Fischer said she doesn’t remember much about making the funeral plans or the days that passed before the event.
“He was given the funeral he deserved. He was a hero,” she said.
But going back to work at a place where she and Dave spent so much time together has been difficult, Shawn Fisher admits.
“The first fire I went to go on after he died, I went out to get my bunker gear on. His locker was across from mine and on that day it was empty. It left me with such an empty feeling,” she said.
Shawn Fischer spent this past week at a workshop in Colorado for first responders and veterans who have been through tragic circumstances.
“It made me realize that I’m not the only one out here suffering,” she said.
She also said she has realized that people are apprehensive about talking to someone who has lost a spouse or loved one tragically.
“People are scared to mention Dave’s name to me. They are scared to mention the accident and everything about it,” she said. “I want to talk about him.”
For now, she focuses on making it through one day at a time.
“I would do anything to have him back here. I miss his positivity,” she said. “It didn’t matter if I was down about something or discouraged, he always found a positive outlook on it.”
Shawn Fischer said talking about her husband keeps his legacy alive.
“For Dave, it was just normal to give 110%. He would do anything for anybody. That’s just how Dave was,” she said.
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