Salem Fire Department Remembers Fallen Brother

Tracy Morehead, 39, died in a two-vehicle car accident on I-90 east of Mitchell

SALEM, S.D. – A fire department west of Sioux Falls says this week has been rough, after finding out early Sunday morning one of their members died in a two-vehicle car accident. Thirty-nine-year-old Tracy Morehead struck the back of an SUV east of Mitchell on I-90. The SUV he hit crashed into some cattle on the road.

When working at a volunteer fire department, it’s nearly impossible not to get close to those around you.

“We spend so much time together training so you get to know them on a personal level,” says Nathan Olinger, the Fire Chief with the Salem Fire Department.

So when Olinger found out Tracy Morehead passed away,  the news was hard to grasp.

“His aunt contacted me,” says Olinger. “It’s like losing a family member, so it is a little tough.”

Tracy began as a volunteer fire fighter with the Salem Fire Department in 2011.

“[He was] a very upbeat guy, always had a smile on his face,” says Olinger.

After 5 years, he left the department for a job in Mitchell, only to return.

“About 3 or 4 months ago, he took a position at Salem working in Salem, so he asked to get back on here working during the week days,” explains Olinger.

Olinger says finding volunteers who are able to respond to an emergency during the day is hard to find — since most people are already at work.

“Any time during the day, we’re lucky if we have 3 people to respond to a call,” he says. “And some of them are farming so their response time is going to be delayed anyway.”

Olinger says Morehead knew this, “so that was nice of him to step up to the plate to get back on.”

Tracy not only volunteered for the Salem department, he was also volunteering for the Spencer Fire Department just 11 miles away.

“He was one of the first people to ask what can I do to help, that was just his nature, and he was very helpful,”says Olinger.

So it’s obvious, Tracy will be missed.

“Every small fire department in South Dakota is struggling for member retention, not only on the personal side is it hard, but on the fire department losing a member,” says Olinger. “That’s huge to us.”

There are 18 volunteers at the Salem Fire Department. Olinger says, ideally, he’d like to have 25 members. But he says the members they do have, are all leaning on each other to get through this hard time.

Tracy had two daughters. A GoFundMe account has been set up to help with funeral expenses.

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