Apple fire, south of Custer, South Dakota.

Apple fire
Apple Fire, Black Hills, South Dakota
Looking north across Wind Cave National Park to the Apple fire, north of the park -- through a loooong, telephoto lens. March 28, 2012 at 5:40 p.m. MT.

UPDATE at 6:55 p.m. MT, March 29, 2012

Firefighters have a fireline around the entire fire, but portions of it are indirect. That is, the line is some distance from the fire, so firefighters have to burn out or backfire between the line and the fire in order to eliminate the fuel (or vegetation) in those areas. Until that is complete the firelines will not be secure. The two photos below that were taken on Wednesday showing firefighter Brice Stanton are examples, but on a small scale, of burning out unburned vegetation between the fireline and the fire.

More accurate mapping has resulted in a smaller reported size, which is now 500 acres, all but 30 of which are on U.S. Forest Service land, the rest being private. They are calling it 15% contained.

On Friday the weather will challenge firefighters and test the indirect firelines. The Weather Service is predicting 10 to 25 mph winds with gusts up to 35, and a relative humidity of 15%.

The USFS has produced a  map showing the fire’s location.


UPDATE at 10:16 a.m. MT, March 29, 2012

At 10 p.m. last night the fire spotted across a dozer line and a road, and this morning is reported to be 515 acres and 15% contained. It is three miles southeast of Cicero Peak, and eight miles southeast of Custer, SD. The Incident Commander is Todd Hoover, from the Black Hills National Forest.

There are currently 2 Heavy Air Tankers, 1 Type 1 Heavy Helicopter (KMAX) and a lead plane stationed at the Rapid City Air Tanker Base.

Apple fire map 1230 3-29-2012
Map showing the location of the Apple fire

We will add more information as it develops today.


(Original article at 6:30 p.m. March 28, 2012.)

Monday’s lightning is suspected of starting a fire that showed up today between 1 and 2 p.m. at 11:38 a.m. north of Wind Cave National Park on the Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota. At the last report it had burned about 300 acres.

All photos were taken by Bill Gabbert on March 28, 2012 between 2:56 p.m. and 5:40 p.m.

Apple Fire, Black Hills, South Dakota
The staging area.

During the early stages of the fire the Incident Commander was able to use a South Dakota National Guard Blackhawk helicopter and a Single Engine Air Tanker (SEAT) on the fire. Then the SEAT got taken away and used on a new fire about two miles south of Mt. Rushmore. Initially there were no large air tankers available, but several hours into the fire Dispatch told the IC that they had rounded up two large air tankers, apparently coming from a considerable distance away, and they would be landing empty at Rapid City Airport around 6 p.m. Two Type 1 helicopters were also ordered from some very distant locale. Crews were coming from Montana and other states. [UPDATE: the two large air tankers were “stolen” from the Lower North Fork fire in Colorado, leaving them with no air tankers.. At 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday that fire was 4,140 acres and only 15% contained.]

Welcome to the 2012 wildfire season. It’s still March and there are not enough aerial and hand crew resources where they are needed.

Apple fire

Apple Fire, Black Hills, South Dakota
Brice Stanton, burning out


Apple Fire, Black Hills, South Dakota
Brice Stanton, burning out
Apple Fire, Black Hills, South Dakota
South Dakota National Guard Blackhawk, dropping
Apple Fire, Black Hills, South Dakota
A Big Yellow McLeod
Apple Fire, Black Hills, South Dakota
A relatively new innovation? A Bobcat for line construction.
Apple Fire, Black Hills, South Dakota
Part of a crew walking in to their assignment
Apple Fire, Black Hills, South Dakota
South Dakota National Guard Blackhawk
Apple Fire, Black Hills, South Dakota
Blackhawk dipping

Apple Fire, Black Hills, South Dakota

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. Google+

15 thoughts on “Apple fire, south of Custer, South Dakota.”

  1. Saw one of the P-2’s leaving Minden this afternoon. Maybe that is one of the tankers they are expecting.

    1. JMG, that might have been a better solution, however I found out later that the two large air tankers that were on the Lower North Fork fire in Colorado were pulled off that fire, which was listed at 15% contained, and sent to the Apple fire, landing empty at Rapid City over six hours after the first initial attack resources were dispatched to the fire.

  2. Me and my fiance saw the initial smoke from wind cave NP about 1 or so, I tried gettin ahold of fall river dispatch but it was busy. When we got to Pringle, we couldn’t see the smoke anymore, and we saw Engine 331 in Custer pullin in for fuel

  3. Left home at 10 am to go to Rapid City and returned about 5 pm to discover the Apple fire burning 6 miles away–never heard a thing about it on the local news outlets. Look I know they don’t like to let out to much information to keep the looky-loos away but I live in the forrest and it would be nice to know if my house is in danger. I tried calling the USFS but they won’t tell you a d–m thing, kinda hard to believe it when they tell you they just don’t know anything.

    1. it always “kills” me that they “try” to keep somethin like that secret, but that secret always gets out, as they can’t hide that smoke that’s rising from the forest

  4. Bill great pictures. I have a feeling that we will be seeing more use of the military MAFFS this season as well as national guard helicopters.

    1. Thanks Matt. You might be right about us seeing more of the MAFFS on fires. However, the military has said they do not wish to expand the MAFFS program.

  5. I see in the offical report as of 5PM the resources for the Apple fire do not list any heavy air tankers–wonder what the heck were those large prop aircraft that flew ALL day long from the direction of Rapid City to about 8 miles southeast of Custer

  6. What makes you people think they are being all secret for? Ever think the office people might not have all the correct information? Instead of releasing outdated/wrong information, they wait.

    1. Custer County. Black Hills National Forest. I would be surprised if any of the radio traffic is on the scanner web sites. If you find it, let us know.

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