William George Waldner, Firefighter

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Sunset Fire Department members were fighting a fire in a large coal bin in their community. The bin was about 75-feet tall. Firefighters had been working for some time to remove coal from the bin and believed that the incident was under control. About 80 tons of coal had already been removed with approximately 40 tons remaining in the bin. Firefighter Jacob Waldner and Firefighter William Waldner, cousins, were on the top of the bin flowing water into the bin to control the fire, when an explosion occurred. The explosion ripped off the roof and one wall of the bin. Both firefighters were trapped in the debris. Both firefighters were killed. The State Fire Marshal's report determined that the explosion was caused by spontaneous combustion. News reports explained that the type of coal in use, Powder River Basin coal, was a factor in the blast.

Department information

Sunset Fire Department
41632 109TH ST
Britton, South Dakota 57430-5506

Chief: Danny Stahl, Jr.

William George Waldner was honored on the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Emmitsburg, Maryland and was included in the USFA’s annual report Firefighter Fatalities in the United States.
Age: 22
Rank: Firefighter
Classification: Volunteer
Incident date: September 15, 2011 08:00
Date of death: September 15, 2011
Cause of death: Fall
Nature of death: Trauma
Activity type: Advance Hose Lines/Fire Attack (includes Wildland)
Emergency duty: Yes
Duty type: On-Scene Fire
Fixed property use: Store/Office