Black Hills: Kara Creek and Crow Peak Fires

Above: The Kara Creek Fire, June 25, 2016. Inciweb photo.

(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.

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.

(UPDATE at 5:54 p.m. MDT June 25: with the growth of the Kara Creek fire to 12,000 acres, we dedicated a separate article to just that fire. It has much more information about this fire.

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.

UPDATE at 8:48 a.m. MDT June 26, 2016:  More recent information about the Crow Peak and Kara Creek Fires. A Type 2 incident management team, with Incident Commander Shane Greer, has been ordered. The Forest Service reports the Crow Peak Fire has burned 250 acres.

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 8:45 a.m. PDT June 26, 2016)

Map Erskine Fire
Map of the Erskine Fire. The red line was the perimeter at 12:10 a.m. PDT June 26, 2016. The white line was the perimeter about 27 hours before. Click to enlarge.

The Erskine Fire at Lake Isabella, California continued to spread on Saturday. Most of the additional acres were on the southwest side five miles west of Kelso Valley Road.

The official size of the fire according to the IMT is 36,810 acres, an increase of about 1,000 acres since yesterday. The IMT has not released any updated information about structures since yesterday when they reported at least 150 homes have been destroyed and an additional 75 were damaged.

Erskine Fire.
Erskine Fire. Posted on InciWeb June 25, 2016.

The Red Cross Safe & Well site is available for those looking for loved ones affected by evacuations: https://safeandwell.communityos.org/cms/index.php.

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(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.