Wildfire activity increases in the Black Hills

(Originally published at 10:12 MDT June 26, 2016; Douglas fire updated at 2:10 p.m. MDT June 25, 2016))

Crow Peak Fire
Crow Peak Fire June 25, 2016. Photo by Robert Cota, Boxelder Job Corps Crew 15 Fire Program Manager, Black Hills National Forest.

Firefighters are suppressing four wildfires in the Black Hills of Wyoming and South Dakota, ranging from 64 to 5,000 acres.

Fires Black Hills
Fires in the Black Hills June 25, 2016. Click to enlarge.

Kara Creek: 5,000 acres 4 miles east of Keyhole Reservoir, 15 miles west of Sundance, Wyoming, and about 3 miles north of Interstate 90. Before the fire was reported Friday evening a lightning storm accompanied by very strong winds hit the area. Air tankers, Type 1 hand crews, and Type 2IA hand crews have been ordered.

A resident of Upton, Wyoming told us that the clouds were generating rain but it evaporated before hitting the ground. They said the fire was putting up a large amount of smoke Friday evening.

Douglas: 1,785 acres; it started Thursday 10 miles southwest of Sundance, Wyoming and is being managed by a Type 3 incident management team. On Friday the fire was most active on the southwest side where, according to the Rapid City Journal, new evacuations were ordered. More information is in our earlier article about the Douglas Fire, and we have a gallery of photos here.

(UPDATE for the Douglas Fire at 2:10 p.m. MDT June 25, 2016)

At about 11 a.m. today fire officials for the Douglas Fire released this information:

The Douglas Fire saw growth early in the day yesterday but stabilized as the day went on. The fire is estimated at 2000 acres and is now contained.

Incident Command of the Douglas Fire shifted to Type 4 Incident Commander Dallas Roth this morning. Four fire engines and one handcrew will remain on the Douglas Fire to ensure the fire stays contained.

The evacuation of Sundance Canyon Ranch subdivision has been lifted.

Rapid Creek: 1,000 acres. It was reported Friday afternoon near the intersection of 158th Avenue and East Highway 44, 24 miles southeast of Rapid City in the Farmingdale area. The heat-sensing satellites did not detect any heat overnight from this fire, which may indicate that it burned in light fuels, such as grass, and was relatively cool during the subsequent overflight.

Crow Peak: 64 acres, 5 miles west of Spearfish, SD. A Type 3 incident management team has been ordered. 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 reported Friday afternoon.

Crow Peak Fire
Crow Peak Fire June 25, 2016. Photo by Robert Cota, Boxelder Job Corps Crew 15 Fire Program Manager, Black Hills National Forest.

Smoke map and Red Flag Warnings, June 25, 2016

Map shows smoke from wildfires in the western United States.

Above: Wildfire smoke map, 7 a.m. MDT June 25, 2016. Weatherunderground with fire labels by Wildfire Today.

Several large wildfires in the United States are producing smoke that is being transported for hundreds of miles.

The National Weather service has posted Red Flag Warnings for areas in California and Wyoming.

The red flag warning map was current as of 7:42 a.m. MDT on Saturday. Red Flag Warnings can change throughout the day as the National Weather Service offices around the country update and revise their forecasts and maps. For the most current data visit this NWS site.

wildfire red flag warnings

Red Flag Warnings, June 24, 2016

wildfire Red Flag Warnings June 24, 2016

The National Weather service has posted Red Flag Warnings for areas in California, Montana, South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado.

The maps were current as of 10:40 a.m. MDT on Friday. Red Flag Warnings can change throughout the day as the National Weather Service offices around the country update and revise their forecasts and maps. For the most current data visit this NWS site.

California: approximately 150 homes burn in Erskine Fire

(UPDATED at 1:20 p.m. PDT June 25, 2016)

Within the last hour the incident management team released more information about the Erskine Fire at Lake Isabella in southern California. The work of the Damage Assessment team is ongoing but to date they are reporting that at least 150 homes have been destroyed and an additional 75 damaged. The team is in the process of creating a comprehensive report documenting all structures damaged or destroyed.

The Erskine Fire started on BLM managed public lands at the junction of Erskine Creek Rd and Apollo Way at approximately 3:51PM Thursday, June 23. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

They are calling it 35,700 acres. The Type 1 Incident Management Team assumed command at 8 p.m. PDT June 24, 2016.

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(UPDATED at 9:40 a.m. PDT June 25, 2016)

Map Erskine Fire
Map of the Erskine Fire at 9 p.m. PDT June 24, 2016. Click to enlarge.

The Erskine Fire continued to spread Friday afternoon and evening, but mostly on the dog leg that branched off to the south. Most of the new burned area in the last 24 to 36 hours was west of Kelso Valley Road, but it did cross the road near Janice Avenue and a few other places. In that area the fuels, or vegetation, are light and could ignite, burn, and cool before the next overflight of a heat-sensing fixed wing aircraft or satellite, so the fire location data is not reliable there as it is in locations with heavier fuel. The incident management team is calling it 30,000 acres.

map Erskine Fire
3-D map of the Erskine Fire at 9 p.m. PDT June 24, 2016. Looking north. Click to enlarge.

There has been no recent update on the number or location of the structures that have burned. The last word on the subject from fire officials was:

100 structures have been lost and 1,500 additional structures are threatened. Additional information on structure damage will be posted as damage assessment teams are able to confirm details.

Burned dozer transport
Burned CAL FIRE dozer transport truck on Kelso Valley Road. Photo by Stuart Palley.

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(UPDATED at 6:34 p.m. PDT June 24, 2016)

map Erskine fire
Map showing heat detected on the Erskine Fire by a satellite as late as 1:55 p.m. PDT (the red dots) June 24, 2016.

According to the incident managers of the Erskine Fire which is burning homes near Lake Isabella, California:

Current recommended evacuation – Hwy 178 to Kelso Valley to Piute.

Our wish is that they had been more specific and descriptive in describing the geographic area that should be evacuated. Perhaps some locals can tell us what “Piute” is — a road? Community?

Here is some additional information fire officials posted about evacuations:

Residents in the Lake Isabella and Erskine Creek area should prepare for possible evacuation. Additional evacuation information will be posted when it is available. Evacuations remain in effect for Bella Vista, South Fork, Weldon, Onyx, Lakeland Estates, Mountain Mesa, South Lake, Squirrel Valley, and Yankee Canyon. Hwy 178 is closed at Hwy 155 and at Sierra Way. Kernville Elementary School is now the primary shelter for evacuees. There are approximately 125 evacuees at the elementary school. The Red Cross Safe & Well site is available for those looking for loved ones affected by evacuations: https://safeandwell.communityos.org/cms/index.php.

There has been no recent update on the number of structures burned since the estimate of 100 being destroyed was released at noon today.

In the 12 hours after we produced our last map at 2:26 a.m. PDT the fire took a sharp turn to the right and ran south for six miles. At 6 p.m. incident managers announced the fire had burned 30,000 acres.

In the map above the red dots at the lower right represent heat detected by a satellite at 1:55 p.m. PDT June 24. The fire approached Kelso Valley Road but we are not able to determine how close it got, or if it crossed the road. In that area the fuels, or vegetation, are light and could ignite, burn, and cool before the next satellite overflight, so the fire location data along and especially east of Kelso Valley Road is not reliable.

Continue reading “California: approximately 150 homes burn in Erskine Fire”

Douglas Fire photo gallery

Above: smoke from the Douglas Fire. Photo by Ryan Cutter.

This gallery of photos of the Douglas Fire southwest of Sundance, Wyoming consists of pictures taken on June 22 and 23, 2016.

As noted in the captions, the photos were taken by Ryan Cutter of Classic Helicopters, and a resident who eventually had to evacuate, Kathy Loveland. The images by Bill Gabbert are identified by a watermark in the bottom-left corner.

Details about the Douglas Fire are in our main article about the fire.

If you click on one photo you’ll see a much larger version. Then you can click the left or right arrows to see others at the same size.

Wyoming: Douglas Fire southwest of Sundance

(UPDATED at 7:25 a.m. MDT June 23, 2016)

The Incident Management Team on the Douglas Fire 10 mile southwest of Sundance, Wyoming reported Thursday evening that the fire grew from 257 acres the day before to 1,400 acres. The evacuation orders have been lifted, but 50 residences are still threatened.

map Douglas Fire
Map showing heat detected on the Douglas Fire by a satellite at 3:23 a.m. MDT June 2,4 2016.

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(UPDATED at 9:10 a.m. MDT June 23, 2016)

helicopter bell 206
Pilot Ryan Cutter gets the Bell 206 ready for another day shift on the Douglas Fire, June 23, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

The Douglas Fire southwest of Sundance, Wyoming has burned approximately 700 to 800 acres, according to an early rough estimate from Incident Commander Dick Terry at 8:25 a.m. MDT on June 23. Mr. Terry had just finished a helicopter recon flight and said the biggest challenge today would be the “nasty winds”. They  will have a more accurate size estimate after a GPS flight.

Douglas Fire, June 23, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.


Evacuations ordered yesterday are still in effect for the small number of people that had to leave their homes.

One structure has burned, described by Mr. Terry as not just an outbuilding but a “good shop”.

Approximately 120 personnel and one Wyoming state helicopter are assigned.

We created a gallery of more photos from the Douglas Fire.

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(Originally published June 22, 2016)

Douglas Fire
The Douglas Fire as seen from Sundance, Wyoming, 7 p.m. MDT June 22, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

I drove past this fire on I-90 Wednesday. It is the Douglas Fire 11 miles southwest of Sundance, Wyoming. It was reported at about 10 p.m. on Tuesday. It is listed at 300 acres, but was very active Wednesday afternoon.

Map Douglas Fire
Map showing heat detected by a satellite over the Douglas Fire at 1:45 p.m. MDT June 22, 2016.