Miss South Dakota for 2015

Autumn Simunek

Autumn Simunek, a few hours before she was selected to become Miss South Dakota for 2015. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Every year since the contest has existed the competition for Miss South Dakota, a step toward the Miss America pageant, has been held in Hot Springs, South Dakota. One of the final events in the local program is a parade through the streets of the town. Several times I have used it as an opportunity to practice my photography skills, shooting images of moving targets with a telephoto lens.

Yesterday, June 20, I again used it as training, and took pictures of all of the 16 contestants as they passed by in open-top convertibles. I did not attend the contest Saturday night, but found out Sunday morning a local lady, Autumn Simunek, became our Miss South Dakota.

Miss Simunek also won the preliminary talent award Thursday night, performing the classic pop vocal “Hallelujah.” The 22-year-old is a senior at the University of South Dakota.

It’s funny — the Miss South Dakota contestants totally understood the importance of smile-your-ass-off, but the youngsters in the “Little Sister” category did not get the memo.

The driver of Miss Simunek’s car stopped in front of me when she saw I was taking photos with what appeared to be high-end gear. So I shot a bunch of the contestant, then lowered the camera and gave them a thumbs up. Then they continued in the parade. That was the only car to stop for photos in my area.

Here are a couple of shots of Miss Simunek, and then a few other ladies, followed by a little fire truck porn.

Autumn Simunek

Autumn Simunek. Photo by Bill Gabbert

Rachel Evangelisto

Rachel Evangelisto. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Julia Olson

Julia Olson was the first runner up in the contest that night. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Carly Goodhart

Carly Goodhart. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Stephanie Fischer

Stephanie Fischer. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Hot Springs Fire Department engines

Engines from the Hot Springs Fire Department. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Photos from the 2010 Miss South Dakota parade.


CAL FIRE says vegetation conditions are the worst on record

Redding, CA sunset CAL FIRE engines.

Sunset in Redding, California enhanced by smoke from the Eiler Fire, August 10, 2014. (Click to see a larger version.) Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Below is an excerpt from an article at Capital Public Radio:

…CAL FIRE says the timing of this year’s rains and four years of drought will combine to make fire conditions in 2015 the worst on record.

“We measure the fuel moisture content of all of the vegetation -the brush and the trees and we track that over the course of time and compare it month to month each year,” says Ken Pimlott, Director of CAL FIRE. “And we put it through formulas and determine how much energy and how much heat it will put out when it’s burning. And we have seen -we saw it last year and we will see it again this year- we’ll be reaching records for potential heat output for times of the year that would normally not be burning in those conditions.

CAL FIRE Director Ken Pimlott urged homeowners to clear space and conserve water.

“We don’t have water to water lawns and unnecessary landscaping. So, what that means is, is you need to  remove that vegetation as it dries. We don’t want your dry lawn and your dry brush to contribute to more of the fire hazard. So, stop watering your lawn and remove it.”

Thanks and a tip of the hat got out to Barbara.


Controversy over bald eagle killed when firefighters cut down tree with a nest

Bald Eagle

File photo of bald eagle by Bill Gabbert, February 28, 2015.

Firefighters in Montana are in the middle of a controversy about an eaglet that apparently was killed when a tree containing a bald eagle nest was cut down. They were working to suppress a wildfire on an unnamed island in the Missouri River near Cascade, Montana south of Great Falls and said they had to cut down the tree because it was burning.

However local residents said the tree was not burning and warned the firefighters about the eagle nest which had been in the tree for more than a decade and most years was occupied by bald eagles.

If the residents are correct and the tree was not burning, it sounds like a condition that can sometimes afflict firefighters called “sport falling”. If the firefighters, employees of the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, are right and the tree was on fire, then apparently they concluded that it was very important to cut down the tree with the bald eagle nest, even though it was on an island surrounded by the Missouri River.

More details are at the Great Falls Tribune.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Jim.


Three organizations call for more ambitious hazardous fuels mitigation

burned structure Eiler Fire wildfire

A burned structure at the Eiler Fire in northern California, August 6, 2014. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Three non-profit organizations involved with wildland fire issued a joint position statement recommending that land managers adopt a more ambitious stance toward hazardous fuels mitigation. The 13-page document was released this week by the Association for Fire Ecology, the International Association of Wildland Fire, and The Nature Conservancy.

The organizations identified costs as one of the main concerns and pointed out that missing from most accounting of wildfire costs are indirect, such as rehabilitation, real estate devaluation, and emergency services — that can be two to 30 times more than the actual expenses to fight the fire.

The paper listed four cost-related issues:

1. SUPPRESSION COSTS INCREASING.The cost of wildfire suppression has continued to increase over the last decade.
2. FIRES ARE COSTING TAXPAYERS MORE. Wildfires are costing taxpayers far more than is typically reported by governments and the media.
3. INVESTMENTS NEEDED. Investment in wildfire hazard mitigation needs to be increased and maintained.
4. FUELS TREATMENTS NEED TO BE TREATED RIGHT. Fuel treatments are supported by current and developing science.

The organizations recommend federal wildfire funding reform, reduction of impediments to hazardous fuels mitigation, emphasizing prescribed fire and wildfires managed for resource benefits, and tracking long-term and multi-sector economic losses caused by wildfire.


Honoring our veterans and military personnel today

Veterans Cemetery memorial day Hot Springs

Veterans Cemetery at Hot Springs, South Dakota. Memorial Day, 2015.

Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States for remembering the people who died while serving in the country’s armed forces. The holiday, which is observed every year on the last Monday of May, originated as Decoration Day after the American Civil War in 1868, when the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans — established it as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. By the 20th century, competing Union and Confederate holiday traditions, celebrated on different days, had merged, and Memorial Day eventually extended to honor all Americans who died while in the military service.

Photo by Bill Gabbert. Text from Wikipedia.