Above: Snow cover in the United States, November 18, 2016. The Weather Channel.
Precipitation in the northwest quarter of the United States this week has put even more of a damper on the occurrence of wildfires, the execution of prescribed fires, and agricultural burning.
After weeks of warm, dry weather the Black Hills finally received a little precipitation over the last 24 hours. I won’t know the exact amount at my house until the snow in the rain gauge melts, but there was an inch or two of the white stuff on the ground. Today is sunny with a high of 32 predicted, so maybe it will trickle through the tipping bucket this afternoon.
Small amounts of precipitation in southern Saskatchewan may be the reason smoke from that area is no longer immigrating into the United States, as you can see in the two maps below. The first one was the smoke forecast for November 15 and the one after that is for today, November 18.
However, prescribed fires, wildfires, or agricultural burning in Louisiana, Arkansas, and eastern Texas are still producing large quantities of smoke that at times moves north into the midwest.
Rainfall over the last two weeks has slowed or in some cases, ended the wildfire season in some areas.
On October 19 we ran the numbers for the accumulated precipitation for the last 14 days in the western states. These maps show amounts that exceeded 0.05 inches at some of the Interagency Remote Automatic Weather Stations (RAWS).
Washington, Oregon, and northern California have received a good soaking and I would imagine that local fire officials may be declaring an end to the fire season. Of course this is not unusual for these areas this time of the year, and some locations had already seen their season end. But what IS unusual, is the high amount of moisture that occurred in just two weeks.
You can click on the images to see larger versions.
Above: Final official map of the Cottonwood Fire, produced by the Incident Management Team.
The Cottonwood Fire that started 12 miles east of Wall, South Dakota has been contained. After GPS mapping the 16-mile long fire the incident management team determined it had burned 41,360 acres. Jim Strain, the South Dakota Chief Fire Management Officer, said most of those acres were burned during the first eight hours. And according to Darren Clabo, the South Dakota State Fire Meteorologist, it is the fifth largest on record in the state.
Tuesday night the local Type 3 Incident Management Team was released and turned the fire over to the Wall, Interior, Philip, and Kadoka Fire Departments, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, and Buffalo Gap National Grassland.
Livestock losses reported to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office stand at 137 as no additional losses were reported to the team.
Mr. Clabo sent the tweet below when the estimated size of the fire was 31,000 acres.
Rain in the late afternoon and early evening on Monday helped firefighters working on the Cottonwood Fire 12 miles east of Wall, South Dakota.
Crews were able to assess damaged and destroyed structures inside the perimeter of the fire and it was determined that no primary residences were destroyed. An exact number of cabins, outbuildings and other structures that burned will be determined on Tuesday.
The incident management team on the Cottonwood Fire 12 miles southeast of Wall, South Dakota at 4 p.m. today estimated that about 31,000 acres have burned, with the benefit of better mapping and the ability to evaluate the fire perimeter in the daylight. The team still intends to map the perimeter with a GPS receiver to finalize the data.
At about 6:10 p.m. MDT on Monday it was raining on at least part of the fire.
In addition to the 137 head of cattle that have been reported killed, structures were destroyed but the number of them has not been released.
There are no road closures in effect at this time and Interstate 90 currently has no restrictions in the fire area. Smoke should no longer pose a risk to motorists. The fire area will be clearly visible to travelers on I-90.
There are currently nearly 100 personnel working on the fire. At its peak, close to 300 firefighters were fighting the fire.
(UPDATED at 9:20 p.m. MDT October 16, 2016)
The name of the fire that started about 12 miles southeast of Wall, South Dakota has been changed from “131” to “Cottonwood”.
The fire is currently being managed by the Pennington County Type 3 Incident Management Team (PCIMT3) and is under Unified Command with representatives of Buffalo Gap National Grassland, Wall Fire Department, Jackson County, and Pennington County.
At 6 p.m. the incident management team estimated the fire had burned between 5,000 and 6,000 acres of private and federal land based on information from personnel in an aircraft. More accurate size information is expected on Monday and may result in a change, they said.
Fire authorities reported that structures have burned, but did not provide any details on the number or if they were residences or other buildings.
All roads in the fire area were open at 8:30 p.m. on Sunday.
Above: Battle Fire at 9:40 a.m. MDT October 15, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.
(UPDATED at 2:56 p.m. MDT October 15, 2016)
In the above photo we took Saturday morning the Battle Fire east of Hot Springs, South Dakota looks more benign than it did Friday night. Authorities are reporting it has burned 22 acres.
Fall River County Emergency Manager Frank Maynard said the fire was contained at 2 a.m. Saturday. It will continue to produce smoke for several days as the interior fuels smoulder.
(UPDATED at 12:12 a.m. MDT October 15, 2016)
The Battle Fire east of Hot Springs, South Dakota continues to spread. At about 11:30 p.m. the size was estimated at 10 acres, but since then has grown slowly to the south and southeast. Firefighters are using a South Dakota state dozer to construct fireline in addition to the crews from a number of engines. At midnight it was surprisingly warm and dry for mid-October. The temperature at the fire was 72 and the relative humidity was 26 percent.
(UPDATED at 10:17 p.m. MDT October 14, 2016)
At about 8 PM on Friday the Battle Fire broke out east of Hot Springs, South Dakota at the base of Battle Mountain. Firefighters were worried about it spreading to the top of Battle Mountain and endangering electronic sites. By about 9:25 p.m. after it had burned 5 acres the spread had been slowed. But the wind continued to cause spot fires out ahead of the main fire, challenging firefighters.
The fire started under a nearly full moon on the boundary of the Veterans Administration Hospital property east of the facility. Their fire department notified the Hot Springs FD and requested assistance.
A dozer was ordered to help improve a poorly maintained road in order to provide better access for fire engines.
The weather forecast for the fire area predicts 7 mph winds out of the northwest Friday night, slowing to 3 mph at 6 a.m. The maximum relative humidity will be 61 percent at 6 a.m.
For Saturday the National Weather Service expects 73 degrees, 24 percent relative humidity, and 10 to 12 mph west winds gusting to 16 after noon. These conditions could be conducive to continued fire spread.