South Dakota: Sheep Draw Fire

(UPDATED at 6:10 p.m. MDT, March 31, 2015)

The size of the Sheep Draw fire in northwest South Dakota is now estimated at 13,949 acres.
  • Firefighters are calling it 70% contained
  • One non-commercial structure burned. The structure was a protective shed for a natural gas well. The gas well caught fire the first day and was put out by the first night.
  • As of 6:00 PM Monday night, two Dozers met and tied in the line around the fire (one from the north and one from the south)
  • The successful burnout operation ended at 10:00 PM last night
  • No injuries of firefighters or the public have been reported
  • This fire is burning mainly on public and private land with a small portion of Bureau of Land Management Land

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(UPDATED at 12:20 p.m. MDT, March 31, 2015)

The Rapid City Journal has an article about the Sheep Draw Fire.

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Originally published at 9:54 p.m. MDT, March 30, 2015

Sheep Draw Fire in northwest South Dakota.

Sheep Draw Fire in northwest South Dakota.

Jim Strain’s Type 3 Incident Management Team has assumed command of the 10,000-acre Sheep Draw Fire in northwest South Dakota. Two National Guard helicopters are assisting with the fire which is burning on state and private land.

Firefighters were calling it 15 percent contained at noon on Monday.

The weather forecast for Tuesday calls for 17 mph southwest winds gusting to 28 mph, temperature of 80, and a relative humidity that will be in the teens overnight, 16 percent at dawn and rising to 40 percent by sunset.

Sheep Draw Fire South Dakota

Sheep Draw Fire in northwest South Dakota as seen from the Incident Command Post. Photo provided by Great Plains fire information.

Sheep Draw Fire South Dakota

Sheep Draw Fire South Dakota. Photo provided by Great Plains fire information.

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Structures burn in Hot Springs, SD fire

Hot Springs, SD fire

A fire in Hot Springs, South Dakota late Saturday afternoon burned two unoccupied residences and several outbuildings. Approximately one to two acres was blackened on the north end of the town, north of the Evans Plunge on the west side of School Street.

The fire stopped about 50 feet short of Howard Green’s house who told us the two residences had not been occupied for a while. At least one vehicle, a former school bus, also burned.

Firefighters were able to successfully protect several homes, even though the fire came within a few feet of the structures. The wind had been blowing in excess of 20 mph, with the temperature reaching 80 and a relative humidity in the teens.

The cause was still being investigated, but one resident told us she thought she smelled leaves or debris burning before the fire broke out.

All photos were taken by Bill Gabbert.

Hot Springs, SD fire

A residence with an attached garage that had not been occupied for a while, burned. Another unoccupied residence behind this structure also was destroyed.

Hot Springs, SD fire

Hot Springs, SD fire

More photos are after the jump. Continue reading

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North Dale Fire in an urban area near Rapid City

(UPDATE at 7:09 p.m. MDT, March 20, 2015)

The latest information about the incidents northwest of Rapid City indicates that there were at least two fires about 1.5 miles apart — the 6-acre North Dale Fire along Interstate 90 from milepost 52 to 54, and the 16-acre Exit 55 fire, just west of Exit 55 on I 90 in Pennington County. As this is written, there was no serious damage in the Exit 55 fire, but there was damage to several power poles and other utility infrastructure in the North Dale Fire. Also in the North Dale Fire there were several cases of citizens with smoke inhalation and one with minor 1st degree burns. The Rapid City Fire Department medical staff handled the medical issues.

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(Originally published at 4:34 p.m. MDT, March 20, 2015)

This video of the North Dale Fire burning in an urban interface area near Interstate 90 northwest of Rapid City, South Dakota is impressive. At first firefighters thought it was multiple fires, but apparently it was one very long fire, stretching along the Interstate from milepost 52 to 54. As of about 4:45 p.m. MDT on Friday, the estimated size was eight acres. There are no reports of homes burning, but two outbuildings succumbed to the flames.

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Another fire on Thursday–

And while we’re on the subject of fires in the Black Hills of South Dakota — another fire started on Thursday, the six-acre Deadman Fire off Vanocker and Glena Roads west of Rapid City in the Black Hills National Forest on the Meade/Lawrence county line. On Friday three hand crews and four engines improved fireline and mopped up.

The photos were supplied by the U.S. Forest Service.

Deadman Fire

Deadman Fire during the initial attack.

Deadman Fire

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Dry, warm weather during the early fire season in Black Hills

(To see a larger version of the video below, click on the icon at the bottom-right in the video.)

With the recent warm temperatures and a scarcity of precipitation in the Black Hills of South Dakota, and a forecast for today predicting record highs in some areas as temperatures reach 80 degrees, firefighters are having to gear up early for the fire season.

Since March 1 the Great Plains Interagency Dispatch Center has handled 12 wildfires, with the largest being 721, 400, and 60 acres

The video above emphasizes the North Pole Fire, which we covered HERE and HERE.

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More photos of the North Pole Fire

North Pole Fire

North Pole Fire, March 10, 2015. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Here are a few more photos of the North Pole Fire that burned about 60 acres west of Custer, South Dakota on Tuesday. The photos were taken around 7 p.m., about three hours after the fire started.

Crews are continuing to mop up the fire. Incident Commander Josh Morgan anticipates that it will achieve 100% containment by 5 p.m. today.

There are approximately 20 firefighters still assigned this morning. The Type 3 Incident Management Team has transitioned to a Type 4 incident commander.

State and federal fire investigators continue to work to determine the cause.

North Pole Fire

North Pole Fire, March 10, 2015. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

North Pole Fire

North Pole Fire, March 10, 2015. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

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South Dakota: North Pole Fire

North Pole Fire

A Black Hills National Forest engine crew makes sure the North Pole Fire does not spread into the meadow near Highway 18 west of Custer, SD. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

(UPDATE at 11:10 a.m. MDT, March 11, 2015)

The North Pole Fire west of Custer, South Dakota has not grown since late yesterday. The size is now reported to be 59.3 acres and is being held in check by hand firelines, dozer lines, and roads. Firefighters from multiple agencies staffed the fire overnight and a new shift has taken over today. There have been no reported injuries.

In something that is fairly new for South Dakota, yesterday and today inmates from the “Rapid City Minimum Unit” were assigned to the fire; 11 yesterday and 12 today.

State and federal investigators are attempting to determine the cause.

While there is a Red Flag Warning in effect for south-central South Dakota, the weather forecast is not as extreme for the area where the fire is in the Black Hills in the southwest part of the state. The spot weather forecast for the fire, which is 5,600′ above sea level, issued at 5:27 a.m. on Wednesday calls for sun, 62 degrees, 15 percent relative humidity, and afternoon west winds of 10 to 15 mph, gusting to 20. For Thursday they expect partly cloudy skies, 56 degrees, 27 percent RH, and winds out of the northwest at 5 to 10 mph.

The name of the fire came from the nearby North Pole Spring and North Pole Road, which is also known as FDR 288.

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When I arrived at the North Pole Fire six to eight miles west of Custer, South Dakota, (map) at about 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 10, the firefighters had just about stopped the spread. It was burning in timber adjacent to a complex of cabins and had bumped up against a meadow on the southwest side near Highway 16. The sun was setting and I grabbed a few pictures like the one above before the light swung into near-night mode, which provided some opportunities for shots of firefighters illuminated by flames. Click on the images to see larger versions.

North Pole Fire

North Pole Fire. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

North Pole Fire

North Pole Fire. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Firefighters did a good job of protecting the structures seen in these photos.

The 8:31 p.m. update from the Great Plains Fire Information staff put the size at about 60 acres, on a combination of private and Black Hills National Forest land. Firefighters will be on the fire all night Tuesday and will have fresh crews on the fire Wednesday.

North Pole Fire

A firefighter uses a chain saw to buck a burning log on the North Pole Fire. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

North Pole Fire

Embers fly as a firefighter with a Pulaski mops up the North Pole Fire. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

North Pole Fire

As a firefighter throws a burning branch deeper into the North Pole Fire, embers streak through the air. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

It is not that unusual to have wildfires in the Black Hills in March and April. While it can snow in these months, the herbaceous vegetation is still dead and there are frequently dry spells between the precipitation events. Prescribed fires are often conducted this time of the year before green-up begins in May, however the weather in the spring is usually very variable and it can sometimes be difficult to squeeze in a prescribed fire in this season. The spring of 2014, for example, was wetter than normal and little to no broadcast burning occurred.

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