Update on Legion Lake Fire in the Black Hills

Above: The Legion Lake Fire off Lame Johnny Road in the southern portion of the fire not far from Highway 79 December 14, 2017.

(Originally published at 2:42 p.m. MST December 15, 2017)

Firefighters are beginning to get a handle on the Legion Lake Fire burning in the Black Hills of South Dakota in both Wind Cave National Park and Custer State Park. After conducting burnout operations on the east and west sides, and corralling a slopover on the southwest corner, the Incident Management Team (IMT) reports that the fire now totals 53,875 acres.

Articles on Wildfire Today about the Legion Lake Fire are tagged “Legion Lake Fire”.

Mop up will continue through the weekend and some resources are being released. The Type 2 IMT expects to transition back to a local Type 3 IMT by Saturday. Highways 16A and 87 remain closed due to the threat of falling trees. The two air tankers were released but the the Type 3 helicopter remains on scene for aerial recon.

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Map of the Legion Lake Fire. The red dots on the west side represent heat detected by a satellite at 2:12 a.m. MST December 15, 2017.

The aerial photo below shows the northeast corner of the fire during burnout operations late in the day on December 13, with helpful notes to identify landmarks. Click on it a couple of times to see a larger version.

Now that the spread of the fire has been halted, at least temporarily, Custer State Park has been able to reassign some of their staff to assessing the wildlife. Here is what they reported Friday afternoon:

The majority of our bison herd has been discovered and we are currently in the process of gathering them up and assessing them. The majority of our pronghorn, elk and deer herds have also been located and visually appear to be doing well. We found half of our burro herd and they were the animals that were most impacted by the fire. They are currently being evaluated by veterinarians for an overall health check. We will continue to look for the remainder of the burro herd, but at this time it is believed they did not survive the extreme fire growth from Tuesday night.

The weather Saturday and Saturday night should help slow down the fire even more, with an 80 percent chance of an inch of snow. The high temperatures on Saturday and Sunday will be in the 30s.

fire engine legion lake fire
Seen at the Incident Command Post December 13, 2017.
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The Legion Lake Fire December 13, 2017. IMT photo.
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The Legion Lake Fire December 13, 2017. IMT photo.

Firefighters on Legion Lake Fire shift to mop-up

Above: the Legion Lake Fire off Lame Johnny Road near Highway 79.

(Originally published at 4:44 p.m. MST December 14, 2017)

The primary emphasis on the Legion Lake Fire in the Southern Black Hills of South Dakota is shifting from line construction and burning out to mop-up. On Thursday some areas were still being being burned out to secure a few sections of the perimeter, but most of the firefighters were locating and suppressing anything that is still burning close enough to the edge of the fire to be a potential threat to cross the fireline.

The Incident Management Team is calling the fire 47,312 acres, but that could change if more accurate mapping becomes available. That size puts it on the list as the third largest wildfire in recorded history of the Black Hills.

We have been hearing for several days that the cause was a fallen power line and that has been confirmed.

Articles on Wildfire Today about the Legion Lake Fire are tagged “Legion Lake Fire”.

It was overcast and windy at the fire Thursday with north winds gusting at 12 to 20 mph. They should subside Thursday night but resume on Friday blowing from the west at 15 gusting to 20 mph under mostly sunny skies. Saturday will bring a 50 percent chance of a small amount of precipitation, about 0.05″ of rain or less than an inch of snow.

All evacuation orders have been lifted. Custer State Park and Wind Cave National Park are closed to the public, except in Wind Cave the roads that are still open include Hwy. 385, Hwy 87, and Beaver Creek Road (across from the fire lookout tower). In Custer State Park portions of Highways 16A and 87 are still closed.

The RJ85 air tanker that was at Rapid City has gone back to California and the other, an MD-87, is on her day off today. The lead plane has also departed, so it appears that the remaining air tanker will probably be released when it returns to duty Friday.

On Thursday we shot the photos below on Lame Johnny Road in the southern portion of the fire not far from Highway 79. Click on the photos to see larger versions.

Firefighter killed on the Thomas Fire

(UPDATED at 11:55 p.m. MST December 14, 2017)

CAL FIRE has released the name of the firefighter that was killed on the Thomas Fire in Southern California today.

CAL FIRE officials hold a press conference after the death of firefighter Cory Iverson in the Thomas Fire.

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(Originally published at 3:26 p.m. MST December 14, 2017)

A firefighter from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection was killed today while battling the huge Thomas Fire in Southern California. The family has been notified but no details have been released except that the victim was a male Engineer from the San Diego County unit.

“I am very saddened to report that a firefighter fatality has occurred on the Thomas Incident,” Chief Ken Pimlott, the director of CAL FIRE, said in a statement. “The incident is still unfolding, but in this world of fast moving information, it is important to me that only factual information be shared. To that end, I can confirm a fatality of a CAL FIRE Engineer from the San Diego Unit has occurred. IMT 4, CAL FIRE Local 2881, and Southern Region leadership are working to support the Unit and his family, who have been notified.

“More details will be made available as they are confirmed.”

Our sincere condolences go out to the Engineer’s family, friends, and co-workers.

Since the Thomas Fire started on December 4 it has burned 242,000 acres in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties. A few days after the fire started a civilian was killed in a vehicle accident during the evacuation.

Firefighter shot while on duty in California

Jacob Kirkendall
Jacob Kirkendall

A wildland firefighter for the U.S. Forest Service was shot December 11 while driving a vehicle in Monterey County, California. The victim, Division Chief Peter Harris, was shot in the neck and ear. Even though he was wounded, Chief Harris was able to provide a description to a 911 operator.

Below is an excerpt from an article by KSBW:

The suspected gunman was identified as 25-year-old Jacob Kirkendall of Santa Cruz.

Kirkendall led Monterey County Sheriff’s deputies and Fort Hunter Liggett officers on a chase through the Army post while he was driving a red pickup truck.

Law enforcement authorities opened fire on Kirkendall’s truck, and bullets struck the driver’s side door, according to scanner traffic.

Kirkendall sped off, officers lost sight of the pickup truck, and the gunman slipped away for several tense minutes, according to scanner traffic. [With help from a CHP helicopter] Kirkendall was eventually found, arrested, and taken into custody. The Sheriff’s Office declined to discuss a possible motive, and would not comment on why Kirkendall was in south Monterey County.

Harris was taken to Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, and he is expected to be OK.

Kirkendall is being charged with attempted murder and firing into an occupied vehicle.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Ken.
Typos or errors, report them HERE.

Driving through the Legion Lake Fire


After leaving the Incident Command Post at the Legion Lake Fire December 13, 2017 I recorded part of the journey along Hwy 16A back to Highway 79 in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The fire has burned about 47,000 acres as of December 13, 2017. You will see patches of snow on the side of the road and at 5:46, deer.

Articles on Wildfire Today about the Legion Lake Fire are tagged “Legion Lake Fire”.

10,000-foot hose lay on the Thomas Fire in SoCal

@EliasonMike of the Santa Barbara Fire Department uploaded these photos to Twitter December 13:

#ThomasFire-Five engines and 2 Dozers from the Santa Barbara County Fire Dept are in the process of clearing a fire break and laying 10 THOUSAND feet of hose across a canyon from atop Camino Cielo down to Gibraltar to make a stand should the fire move that direction.

Thomas Fire hose lay

Thomas Fire hose lay