After 28 years as a firefighter, Dan Pollreisz committed to 'quality leadership' as Mitchell fire chief

“When I went on my first fire, it flipped a switch. It was awesome, and I knew I wanted to be a firefighter," said Dan Pollreisz, Mitchell's new fire chief.

Newly appointed Fire Chief Dan Pollreisz is pictured on Wednesday, April 19, 2023, in Mitchell.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

MITCHELL — From the moment Dan Pollreisz responded to his first fire at the age of 19, he was hooked.

The Ethan native was working as a volunteer firefighter for the small town in 1999 when he got his first taste of containing a structure fire. Since then, he joined Mitchell’s Fire Division and climbed the ranks to captain.

On Monday, Pollreisz climbed his way to the highest leadership role in the division and the highest rank in his public safety career when he was sworn in as Mitchell’s fire chief.

“When I went on my first fire, it flipped a switch. It was awesome, and I knew I wanted to be a firefighter. I remember the old yellow tanker truck I rode in,” Pollreisz said.

The 41-year-old firefighter now-turned chief has been acclimating to the new role this week. What used to be 24-hour shifts next door are now eight-hour shifts with more administrative tasks and other duties. While some of the tasks are new, the faces he works alongside are not. His starting salary is $102,732.


Prior to being tabbed as the chief of the fire division and Emergency Management Services (EMS), Pollreisz spent the past two decades as a Mitchell firefighter. Many of the fellow firefighters he’s worked with over the years are still integral members of the team. And that team is what Pollreisz calls family.

“We are a big family here. That helps ease transitions,” he said.

The position became vacant in early March after former Mitchell Fire Chief Marius Laursen stepped down from the role after three years on the job. In his parting words, Laursen said he was confident he left the division in “good hands.”

One of those hands he helped develop is now leading the fire division. It’s evident how much respect Pollreisz has for Laursen and his leadership style. After all, it’s Pollreisz’s goal to keep that type of quality leadership intact as the new chief.

“I’ve worked under great leadership in my career. Our biggest goal is to continue where Chief Laursen left off, and continue to move forward in the right direction,” he said. “Thankfully, I’ve worked under good leadership in my career. I want to provide that type of leadership for years to come.”

Looking toward the future, Pollreisz said he’s focused on recruiting firefighters and EMTs to keep the division adequately staffed to provide timely emergency responses. And that's not been easy in recent years amid the increase in emergency responses and fires that Mitchell crews have been grappling with.

Ethan Fire Chief Dan Pollreisz walks back to the fire truck while working to contain a grass and structure fire Tuesday afternoon at 26422 399th Avenue. Ethan and Mount Vernon firefighters responded to the blaze shortly after 2 p.m. (Sean Ryan/Republic)
Ethan Fire Chief Dan Pollreisz walks back to the fire truck while working to contain a grass and structure fire Tuesday afternoon at 26422 399th Avenue.
Republic file photo

Before Laursen departed, the city council approved adding two full-time firefighters and EMTs to meet the growing demand.

Pollreisz said staffing has become more challenging over the years, as fewer people are applying for emergency service roles. To meet the staffing challenges, he plans to actively recruit firefighters and EMTs and continue community outreach efforts at local schools.


“When we show young kids and high school students what we do, it can spark a fire in them to want to become a career firefighter and EMT,” Pollreisz said.

With the dwindling number of volunteer firefighters in surrounding area towns, Pollreisz said it’s one example of many as to why it’s crucial for Mitchell’s Fire Division to remain strong.

“It is not just volunteer firefighters that are in short supply, it’s career firefighters as well. Nationwide, people just are not seeking out these jobs, we have to look for them,” Pollreisz said of the staffing challenges.

For roughly a decade, Pollreisz was the chief of Ethan’s volunteer fire department — a role he held while being a Mitchell firefighter. His extensive experience leading the small town fire department provided him with a clear understanding of how the surrounding area first responders work in tandem with Mitchell’s Fire Division.

“It gives me an advantage when we go and help a volunteer fire department or they help us on a mutual aid scenario. My plan is to reach out to all the surrounding volunteer fire departments and discuss issues we have,” he said. “If we are able to share ideas and see the equipment and personnel we both have, it will just help everybody in the long run.”

Sam Fosness joined the Mitchell Republic in May 2018. He was raised in Mitchell, S.D., and graduated from Mitchell High School. He continued his education at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, where he graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in English. During his time in college, Fosness worked as a news and sports reporter for The Volante newspaper.
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