When devastation hits, a community pulls together best.
That was evident last Thursday when the Flandreau Meat Locker caught fire shortly before noon and was destroyed.
Thursdays are well-known as Butcher Barbecue Day at the locker, and that’s exactly what Tyler Kills-A-Hundred, co-owner of the Flandreau Meat Locker, and his crew was doing, serving lunch out front.
Staff and customers were unaware that there was anything wrong until Moody County Enterprise staff noticed a thick, dark plume of smoke rising from the rear of the building.
A call to 911 was made and the locker staff and patrons were made aware of the serious situation arising out of their sight.
After Tyler was alerted, he initially was hoping the fire was small enough that he could contain it himself.
He first ran inside to check the smokehouse room and found it already engulfed in flames. Then he went around back and saw the smoke pouring out of the building, realizing the severity of the fire.
The actual cause of the fire is still unknown. Due to an early press deadline, the fire marshal’s report was unavailable for this story.
When firefighters arrived on the scene, flames had already gotten into the attic portion of the building and pieces of the ceiling had already started to come down, rendering it too dangerous to enter the building to attempt to fight the fire.
This meant that the fire fighting would have to take place from the building’s exterior, severely limiting access to the flames.
The rapid progression of the fire was a clear indicator that additional firefighters and equipment were going to be needed to attempt to contain it, but all they could do was control the flames from spreading.
Wind speeds were in their favor as only a light breeze from the north was present.
“We had to have several additional people fighting the fire so we could rotate to keep them safe,” said Flandreau Fire Chief Jud Krull.
Flandreau had 21 of their 27 volunteers join the battle.
Crews from fire departments from Colman, Trent, Dell Rapids, Pipestone, Elkton and Brookings joined Flandreau on site. Between 50-60 firefighters cycled in and out to fight the fire throughout the day.
Additional first responders included Moody County EMS, Flandreau Police Department, Moody County Sheriff’s Office and the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribal Police.
Krull said a big part of having so many fire departments on site was for the manpower rather than their equipment.
“With two different storm cells coming through town that day, crews had to come off the ladders a few times for concerns of lightening and fight the fire from the ground,” Krull said. The storms only produced a light rain for a short time.
But if the temperature had been higher, rather than a moderate 75 degrees, Krull said much more help would have been needed to contain the fire.
“If it were hotter, we would have had to call in twice as many guys,” Krull said.
During the fire, two officers from each the police department, sheriff’s office and tribal police worked controlling traffic in the area.
Although the bulk of the departments were sent on their way well before dark, the scene was monitored throughout the night and department members were back on the scene around 4 a.m. Friday morning to douse a flareup, which had remained active in the thick layers of insulation.
In addition to the many items of a meat locker business, Tyler said they had items for Weekend Fuel, a backpack program that provides food for children over the weekend, food for the Riverside Park Days street dance, food for a wedding rehearsal, around 1,200 pounds of buffalo meat and 120 pounds of pulled pork loin they had ready to donate to Liberty’s Troops for the annual Glow Run, all inside the building during the fire.
He said that he kept going over the amount of meat involved in his mind and it was difficult to think about anything else.
Aside from the meat that sat in the freezer that had already been processed, there were numerous sides of beef in the hanging cooler awaiting the cutting process.
Tyler said it is one of the most gut-wrenching feelings he has ever experienced knowing that the customers he and his crew have worked so hard to establish would now be “in limbo” until the insurance is figured out.
He also said that so many people have reassured him that they will be understanding and know this is a situation of which no one has much control.
The walk-in freezer remained in tact, though it no longer had power.
A late Friday afternoon from the state’s meal inspector found the contents were still okay and frozen. A semitrailer freezer was brought in to keep the meal frozen. Patrons were notified and many came and picked up their product.
No substantial damage was evident in other buildings nearby. The closest neighboring building to the locker is the county Veteran’s Center to the west. VFW Commander Bridget Flannery said the center was virtually completely spared.
“There’s just a little water damage in our supply room,” Flannery said.
According to Martin Jarrett, general manager for Big Sioux Community Water System in Egan, which supplies water to the city of Flandreau, the company was feeding about 400 gallons of water per minute into the city when they learned about the fire.
At the peak point, Jarrett said firefighters were using somewhere in the realm of 100,000 gallons of water an hour for the fire.
Around 4 p.m., the Flandreau water towers were a little under half full. At this time, firefighters started using water from two wells east and west of town owned by Loiseau Construction and Ramsdell's.
Jarrett said there was no concern about the city running out of water. Big Sioux continued feeding the city 865 gallons a minute until around 6:30 p.m. that evening.
Albers, who was on site to monitor the storms coming through, said he saw people from different businesses throughout town bringing in food and drinks for the firefighters and first responders left and right.
John’s Place brought sandwiches and coolers, Dakota Stop provided pizzas, Royal River Casino brought fried chicken, the Bean and Vine sent cookies and The Spot brought malts.
An abundance of water, ice and Gatorade was also provided by a number of people and businesses, including Maynard’s and Lewis Drug.
Fuel trucks from Powers Oil and River’s Edge Co-op were available to keep the firetrucks fueled without them leaving the scene.
Mayor Mark Bonrud said acts like these are one of the best parts of living in a town like Flandreau.
“That’s the good thing about living in a small community,” Bonrud said. “Whenever a tragedy likes this happens, everybody comes together and does a great job of helping out.”
Bonrud was also on site of the fire with the ambulance crew and said, fortunately, there were no injuries.
On behalf of the city, the mayor said they want to see the Flandreau Meat Locker back in business as soon as possible.
“Tyler is a great asset to the community,” Bonrud said. “We’ll get him and his family back on their feet. The community has shown great resiliency.”
The day after the fire, Tyler said it was crazy and comforting to see how many people showed up and called and texted him.
“You’d think it’d be an inconvenience,” said Tyler. “But it was such a comfort because it kept my mind on more positive things like people’s support... It’s hard for us to even say thank you enough to the fire departments, the people, the businesses. Just everybody. I don’t think I’ll get myself to a point to put into words how thankful we are.”
The Flandreau Meat Locker has been owned and operated by Tyler and Sarah Kills-A-Hundred since September 2013, when they purchased the business from Sarah’s parents, Dave and Jeanine Flatten.
Plans for the business moving forward are not yet known, pending discussions with the insurance company to see what’s possible.
The community is responding to the tragedy with fundraiser efforts.
Half of the proceeds from the Riverside Park Days Street Dance were given to the business.
Underground Threads is making T-shirts and donating the proceeds, donation cans are placed in some local businesses, a GoFundMe page has been established and a fund has been created at First Savings Bank in Flandreau for those who wish to give monetarily.