A fire that can never be extinguished: Community mourns passing of longtime Dickinson firefighter

Hilary Hartman, Fire Engineer responsible for the Dickinson Fire Department’s fleet, shows off the department's newest asset. James B. Miller, Jr. / The Dickinson Press

Firefighters choose to work under some of the most dangerous conditions imaginable. Whether rushing into a burning building or providing emergency rescue services, they keep our homes, businesses, schools and community safe. When a firefighter dies, the community they served feel a collective sense of loss. Taking the moment to reflect on the bravery and commitment of Hilary Hartman, 54, the community shared their condolences for the family while commending his dedication and service to Dickinson for more than three decades in social media posts online.

Hartman, the longtime fire engineer with the Dickinson Fire Department, succumbed to T-cell lymphoma on Monday, Jan. 20, at Sanford Health in Bismarck. Hartman was diagnosed with the rare blood cancer in June and quickly received an outpouring of support from the community.

Hartman, who was lifelong resident of Dickinson, served more than 32 years with the city in various positions with the Dickinson Fire Department.

With Hartman's treatment and care requiring frequent trips and stays in Bismarck, Fargo, N.D., and Rochester, Minn., members of the firefighters' local union, in conjunction with all members of the Dickinson Fire Department, hosted an event at Phat Fish Brewing last year to help offset medical costs.

Hartman started as a volunteer firefighter with Dickinson Fire Department in August 1987 before transitioning to a part-time employee in March of 1989. In January 1991, Hartman started his full-time career as a firefighter and served in roles including lieutenant of the volunteer firefighters, officer in charge, and his final title as fire engineer.


"A great friend, firefighter, Captain, mentor, and brother has passed away," a Facebook message from the Dickinson Fire Department read. "Thank you for all you did during your 32 years of service for our department, our members, and our community #22.”

Members of the community and area businesses came together to support Hartman during a September "Fight for Hilary" charity event.

“It's extremely devastating, not only for his family and friends but for the community,” Kelli Scharf, part owner of Phat Fish Brewing Co., said. “It was an honor to be the place they came to support Hilary, and just hearing the stories shared at the benefit we hosted to help raise money and awareness for him showed how loved he was by this community. The community are definitely going to wrap their arms around his family and really take care of them as they grieve. ”

Cancer is now the leading cause of death among firefighters, according to the International Association of Firefighters. Since 2002, 54.8% of the people listed on the IAFF Fallen Firefighter Memorial Wall of Honor have died from cancer.

“A lot of people in this community and other places are dealing with cancer in some way, shape or form, and there comes a time, regardless of insurance coverage or other benefits, where the care, the constant trips, medication needed, etc. ... It eventually becomes overbearing,” Bob Sivak, fire chief of Dickinson Fire Department, said in an interview with The Press in September. “It's an uphill battle that these people find themselves in, and a costly one. Whatever any of us can do to help, in any of these fights, is all we can ask for.”

Liturgy of the word service for Hartman will be 10:00 a.m., Monday, January 27, 2020 at Stevenson Funeral Home with Deacon Al Schwindt celebrating. Burial will follow at St. Joseph’s Cemetery.

Visitation for Hartman will be from 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m., Sunday, January 26, 2020, at the funeral home with a rosary and vigil being held at 4:00 p.m. Visitation will continue at 8:00 a.m. on Monday.

In lieu of flowers, family suggests donations be made to the Dickinson Fire Department.

James B. Miller, Jr. is the Editor of The Dickinson Press in Dickinson, North Dakota. He strives to bring community-driven, professional and hyper-local focused news coverage of southwest North Dakota.
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