Firefighters to begin firing operations on Crow Peak Fire near Spearfish, South Dakota

Above: Air Tanker 161, an RJ85, drops on the north side of the Crow Peak Fire at 4:56 p.m. MDT June 27, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

(UPDATED at 9:20 a.m. MDT June 30, 2016)

As the 1,350-acre Crow Peak Fire near Spearfish, South Dakota enters its seventh day firefighters will begin firing operations Thursday morning on the southwest and northeast sides. Local residents will see an increase in fire activity as the unburned fuels are removed between the main fire and the prepped lines firefighters have been working on in recent days.

The Incident Management Team reports that structure protection is in place for all structures in the vicinity of the firing operations, and air resources will be used as needed.

Map Crow Peak Fire
Firing operation on the southwest side of the Crow Peak Fire, June 30, 2016.
Map Crow Peak Fire
Firing operation on the northeast side of the Crow Peak Fire, June 30, 2016.

Voluntary and pre-evacuation notifications remain in effect along Crow Peak Bench Road. Voluntary evacuation notices were made along Crow Creek Road.

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(UPDATED at 5:34 p.m. MDT June 28, 2016)

Crow Peak Fire

The Incident Management Team on the Crow Peak Fire near Spearfish, South Dakota reported that a Monday night flight by a heat-sensing fixed wing aircraft determined that the fire has burned 943 acres.

In addition to the large air tankers that have been flying out of Rapid City Regional Airport assisting firefighters on the Crow Peak Fire, four single engine air tankers (SEATs) have been working out of the permanent SEAT base at the Gillette, Wyoming airport (map). It is our understanding that the equipment at the base was given to Campbell County Fire by Weston County to assist in suppressing fires in northeast Wyoming, southeast Montana, northwest South Dakota, and southwest North Dakota.

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(UPDATED at 10:30 p.m. MDT June 27, 2016)

The Crow Peak Fire was actively backing down the steep slopes of Crow Peak again on Monday. We were 21 miles away in Sturgis at 3:15 when it put up a convection column for a while (scroll down to see the photo). Later we got closer and grabbed a few photos.

At 4 p.m. on Monday the Incident Management Team estimated the size at 1,000 acres. They explained that the increase in smoke was due to interior burning on the southern portion of the fire. Firefighters are continuing burning operations on the north side.

The air tanker photo above was taken on the north side of the fire. The aircraft may have been supporting a burnout.

From a distance we saw several air tanker drops by P2V and RJ85 tankers, but only got decent photos of Tanker 161, an RJ85. At  one point on Monday there were four air tankers working out of Rapid City Tanker Base. By the end of the day one had been sent to a fire near Billings, one was relocated somewhere else, and another was down for maintenance.

Crow Peak Fire
The Crow Peak Fire at 4:59 p.m. MDT June 27, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.
Crow Peak Fire
The Crow Peak Fire at 4:50 p.m. MDT June 27, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.
Crow Peak Fire
The Crow Peak Fire at 4:59 p.m. MDT June 27, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

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(UPDATED at 3:30 p.m. MDT June 27, 2017)


As you can see from this quick cell phone picture above taken from Sturgis (21 miles away), the Crow Peak fire was pretty active at 3:15 p.m. today.

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(UPDATED at  7:55 a.m. MDT June 27, 2016)

Evacuations remain in effect as the 313-acre Crow Peak Fire burns into its fourth day about four miles southwest of Spearfish, South Dakota. As the fire backs down the steep slopes of Crow Peak, large helicopters and air tankers are assisting the 135 firefighters on the ground.

Map Crow Peak Fire
Map showing heat detected by a satellite over the Crow Peak Fire at 4:07 a.m. MDT June 27, 2016. Click to enlarge.

Continue reading “Firefighters to begin firing operations on Crow Peak Fire near Spearfish, South Dakota”

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.

Firefighter diagnosed with Rhabdo hours after PT on first day of training

A firefighter on the Tatanka Hotshots in South Dakota was admitted to a hospital hours after completing a long run on the crew’s first day of the 2016 fire season. The run began at 10 a.m. on May 2 and later in the day he complained of severe cramping. The diagnosis was Rhabdomyolysis, sometimes shortened to Rhabdo, and he remains hospitalized as of May 6 according to the “72-hour notification”. A Facilitated Learning Analysis (FLA) team will in-brief on May 9.

Employee's left leg after 5 surgeries
Complications from Rhabdo. Another firefighter’s left leg after 5 surgeries in 2011. Photo from the FLA.

Rhabdo is the breakdown of muscle fibers resulting in the release of muscle contents (myoglobin) into the bloodstream which are harmful to the kidneys and may lead to kidney failure.

Left untreated, or if not treated early enough, rhabdo can lead to irreversible muscle damage, permanent disability, kidney failure possibly requiring lifelong dialysis, and even death. Up to 8% of cases of rhabdomyolysis are fatal according to a NIOSH report. And all of this can be the result of exercising hard or engaging in a strenuous fire assignment if other risk factors are also present.

Articles on Wildfire Today tagged rhabdomyolysis.

The Missoula Technology Development Center recently released this publication about Rhabdo, and the NWCG issued this poster.

Todd Pechota receives FMO of the year award

The U.S. Forest Service announced that Todd Pechota, Forest Fire Management Officer (FMO) on the Black Hills National Forest, is the recipient of the 2015 National Forest FMO of the Year award. He received the honor during a recent ceremony at the U.S. Forest Service Regional Office in Colorado.

The Black Hills National forest is in the Black Hills of western South Dakota and northeast Wyoming.

Todd Pechota
Todd Pechota, in a screen grab from a video as he was interviewed about the Whaley prescribed fire north of Hill City, SD, January 13, 2016.

The award recognizes the most outstanding fire manager in the U.S. Forest Service each year.  It has a long and prestigious history of honoring fire managers who have exhibited exceptional leadership in Forest Fire Management leadership as a Forest Fire Management Officer.

“Todd is an exceptional leader in wildland fire,” said Craig Bobzien, Black Hills National Forest Supervisor.  “This award is a testament to the work he has accomplished. It underscores the relationships he has developed locally and across the nation, and the special care that he has shown for all those that have worked with him.”

In addition to his position as FMO on the Black Hills National Forest, Pechota serves as the Incident Commander for the Rocky Mountain Type 1 Incident Management Team and is past Chairman of the Great Plains Regional Dispatch Board of Directors.

Time lapse photography of the Storm Hill Fire

The Storm Hill Fire is on the east side of Hill City, South Dakota.

Benjamin Carstens’ photos from the Storm Hill Fire

(UPDATED April 25 to include Mr. Carstens time lapse photography.)

Benjamin Carstens took these excellent photos of the Storm Hill Fire that at last report had burned approximately 100 acres just east of Hill City, South Dakota.

Here is a link to our main article about the Storm Hill Fire.

Storm Hill Fire

Storm Hill Fire