Firefighters to begin firing operations on Crow Peak Fire near Spearfish, South Dakota

Crow Peak Fire air tanker

Above: Air Tanker 161, an RJ85, drops on the north side of the Crow Peak Fire at 4:56 p.m. MDT June 27, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

(UPDATED at 9:20 a.m. MDT June 30, 2016)

As the 1,350-acre Crow Peak Fire near Spearfish, South Dakota enters its seventh day firefighters will begin firing operations Thursday morning on the southwest and northeast sides. Local residents will see an increase in fire activity as the unburned fuels are removed between the main fire and the prepped lines firefighters have been working on in recent days.

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The Incident Management Team reports that structure protection is in place for all structures in the vicinity of the firing operations, and air resources will be used as needed.

Map Crow Peak Fire
Firing operation on the southwest side of the Crow Peak Fire, June 30, 2016.
Map Crow Peak Fire
Firing operation on the northeast side of the Crow Peak Fire, June 30, 2016.

Voluntary and pre-evacuation notifications remain in effect along Crow Peak Bench Road. Voluntary evacuation notices were made along Crow Creek Road.

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(UPDATED at 5:34 p.m. MDT June 28, 2016)

Crow Peak Fire

The Incident Management Team on the Crow Peak Fire near Spearfish, South Dakota reported that a Monday night flight by a heat-sensing fixed wing aircraft determined that the fire has burned 943 acres.

In addition to the large air tankers that have been flying out of Rapid City Regional Airport assisting firefighters on the Crow Peak Fire, four single engine air tankers (SEATs) have been working out of the permanent SEAT base at the Gillette, Wyoming airport (map). It is our understanding that the equipment at the base was given to Campbell County Fire by Weston County to assist in suppressing fires in northeast Wyoming, southeast Montana, northwest South Dakota, and southwest North Dakota.

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(UPDATED at 10:30 p.m. MDT June 27, 2016)

The Crow Peak Fire was actively backing down the steep slopes of Crow Peak again on Monday. We were 21 miles away in Sturgis at 3:15 when it put up a convection column for a while (scroll down to see the photo). Later we got closer and grabbed a few photos.

At 4 p.m. on Monday the Incident Management Team estimated the size at 1,000 acres. They explained that the increase in smoke was due to interior burning on the southern portion of the fire. Firefighters are continuing burning operations on the north side.

The air tanker photo above was taken on the north side of the fire. The aircraft may have been supporting a burnout.

From a distance we saw several air tanker drops by P2V and RJ85 tankers, but only got decent photos of Tanker 161, an RJ85. At  one point on Monday there were four air tankers working out of Rapid City Tanker Base. By the end of the day one had been sent to a fire near Billings, one was relocated somewhere else, and another was down for maintenance.

Crow Peak Fire
The Crow Peak Fire at 4:59 p.m. MDT June 27, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.
Crow Peak Fire
The Crow Peak Fire at 4:50 p.m. MDT June 27, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.
Crow Peak Fire
The Crow Peak Fire at 4:59 p.m. MDT June 27, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

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(UPDATED at 3:30 p.m. MDT June 27, 2017)


As you can see from this quick cell phone picture above taken from Sturgis (21 miles away), the Crow Peak fire was pretty active at 3:15 p.m. today.

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(UPDATED at  7:55 a.m. MDT June 27, 2016)

Evacuations remain in effect as the 313-acre Crow Peak Fire burns into its fourth day about four miles southwest of Spearfish, South Dakota. As the fire backs down the steep slopes of Crow Peak, large helicopters and air tankers are assisting the 135 firefighters on the ground.

Map Crow Peak Fire
Map showing heat detected by a satellite over the Crow Peak Fire at 4:07 a.m. MDT June 27, 2016. Click to enlarge.

Incident Commander Shane Greer’s Type 2 Incident Management Team assumed command of the fire at 6 a.m. on Monday. Voluntary and pre-evacuation notifications remain in effect along Crow Peak Bench Road, along with voluntary evacuations on Crow Creek Road. Eleven structures are in the immediate vicinity of the fire.

Weather forecast Crow Peak Fire
Weather forecast for the area of the Crow Fire. NWS. Click to enlarge.

The weather forecast for Monday and Tuesday is somewhat in favor of the firefighters, predicting temperatures around 80, relative humidity in the low to mid-30s, south and east winds at 8 mph, and a 60 percent chance of rain Tuesday afternoon. But gusty winds around the possible thunderstorms on Tuesday could be problematic.

BAe-146 air tanker
A BAe-146 air tanker drops on the Crow Peak Fire. Undated and uncredited photo on InciWeb.

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(UPDATED at 11:40 a.m. MDT June 26, 2016)

Two large fires are keeping firefighters busy in the Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming.

The Kara Creek Fire that burned at least 10,000 acres 13 miles west of Sundance, Wyoming in its first 24 hours after starting from a lightning strike Friday evening continued to spread on Saturday. As of Sunday morning it has been mapped at 13,073 acres. The fire was most active on the south side Saturday where it spread to within a mile of Interstate 90. For a while Saturday evening a north wind pushed smoke onto the highway reducing visibility to the point that it was closed in both directions. Later the wind shifted to come out of the south and it reopened.

Firefighters are making progress on the fire using 113 firefighters, dozers, graders, air tankers and helicopters.

Map Kara Creek Crow Peak Fires
Map showing heat detected by a satellite on the Kara Creek and Crow Peak Fires at 2:46 a.m. MDT June 26, 2016. Click to enlarge

The Crow Peak Fire, 33 miles east of the Kara Creek Fire, has burned about 400 acres 5 miles southwest of Spearfish, South Dakota in the Black Hills National Forest. It is at the top of Crow Peak, “aggressively backing and flanking downhill with short range spotting”, according to fire officials.

Optional and pre-evacuation notifications have been made along Crow Peak Bench Road. Pre-evacuation notices have been made along Crow Creek Road.

About 50 personnel are assigned to the fire along with heavy air tankers, single engine air tankers, and Type 1 and Type 2 helicopters. More resources are en route, including a Type 2 Incident Management Team with Incident Commander Shane Greer which will assume command at 6 a.m. on Monday.

Map 3-D Crow Peak Fire
A 3-D map of the Crow Peak Fire, looking southeast, showing heat detected by a satellite before 2:46 a.m. MDT June 26, 2016. Spearfish is out of the picture just to the left. Click to enlarge.

Great Plains dispatch office reported that firefighters were pulled off the fire Friday night due to the passage of a cold front bringing strong winds. The fire was caused by lightning and was reported Friday afternoon.

The weather forecasts for both of these fires on Sunday are similar, predicting moderate conditions — temperatures in the low 80s, relative humidity around 20 percent, and west winds shifting to come out of the north at about 5 to 8 mph.

wildfire smoke map
Smoke generated by wildfires in South Dakota, Wyoming, and Colorado. Weatherunderground.

The below photo is the Crow Peak Fire.

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(Originally published at 5:53 MDT June 25, 2016)

The Kara Creek Fire has burned 12,000 acres less than 24 hours after it started according to an estimate from the incident management team working on the fire. It started following a lightning bust and was reported at 6:15 p.m. MDT June 24. The fire was extremely active Friday evening. Based on data from a heat-sensing satellite at 12:49 p.m. on Saturday, at that time it was 13 miles west of Sundance, Wyoming, 2 miles east of Keystone Reservoir, and 2 miles north of Interstate 90.

The incident commander that was assigned to the Douglas Fire just seven miles away, Dick Terry, is now in charge of the Kara Creek Fire along with his Type 3 Incident Management Team from the previous fire. A Type 4 IMT is now in charge of the Douglas Fire.

The fire grew quickly due to strong winds associated with the passing of a storm Friday evening and then again with the passage of a cold front Friday night. It has been confirmed that one home was destroyed during the early stages of the fire; over a dozen smaller outbuildings have also burned.

Considering it is a new fire, and in eastern Wyoming, the firefighters have a surprising number of resources available, including two Chinook helicopters, one smaller helicopter, a heavy air tanker, four single engine air tankers, multiple fire engines, the Entiat Hotshots, and two other hand crews.

map Kara Creek Fire
Map showing heat detected on the Kara Creek Fire as late as 12:49 p.m. MDT June 25, 2016.

Evacuation orders are in effect for the following areas: the area east of Keyhole Reservoir to include Pine Ridge Road, Old Sundance Road to I-90, H-Kay Road, Inyan Kara Creek Road, Windmill Lane, Arrowhead Drive, Tom Cat Lane, Tomcat Creek Road, and Nefsy Road. All of these roads are closed to non-emergency traffic.

A public meeting for the Kara Creek Fire will be held Sunday, June 26 at 4 p.m. on the lawn of the Crook County Courthouse at 309 Cleveland Street in Sundance.

Kara Creek Fire
Kara Creek Fire. Inciweb photo.

The wind on Saturday may have presented a problem for firefighters. The Devils Tower weather station nine miles to the north recorded sustained winds at 6 to 8 mph but had gusts at 20 to 30 mph. The relative humidity was in the low teens. The weather on Sunday should be more favorable, with 84 degrees, winds out of the south shifting to come out of the north at 2 to 7 mph, and a relative humidity of 18 percent.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, Bill Gabbert now writes about it from the Black Hills. Google+

3 thoughts on “Firefighters to begin firing operations on Crow Peak Fire near Spearfish, South Dakota”

    1. no, I think it was in 2013. I did my geology fieldcamp in Spearfish in 2014 and I believe it had been the year before. The last thing we map is Crow Peak and the year before us they weren’t able to map completely because of the fire (just like this year)

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