Elk Run Fire causes evacuations in the Black Hills

Residents near Argyle south of Pringle were asked to leave their homes.

(Updated at 2:15 p.m. MDT August 31, 2017)

After more accurate mapping using GPS equipment, the size of the Elk Run Fire was determined to be 225 acres. All evacuation orders have been lifted.


Within a few hours after it was reported on private land at 3:16 p.m. MDT Wednesday, the Elk Run Fire near Argyle, South Dakota burned approximately 400 acres. Fire officials said two structures were damaged and some homes in the community of Argyle were evacuated.

On Wednesday the blaze was attacked by firefighters on the ground as well as three single engine air tankers, one heavy air tanker, and a South Dakota National Guard Blackhawk helicopter.

Elk Run Fire map
Map showing the approximate location of the Elk Run Fire in South Dakota, 7:56 p.m. MDT August 31, 2017

Fire officials hope to have a more accurate measurement of the number of acres burned later on Thursday.

Animating still photos of fires

Today I have been experimenting with an app that recently became available for iPhones and iPads, called Plotagraph. It can be used to animate still photos and seems like a natural for manipulating photographs of fires. You can’t use the app to create new stuff in the photo, but you can take what’s there and make it move.

So far I’ve worked on three photos. One had flames that were fairly easy to isolate and another had smoke that was easy to work with. The third was a B-17 dropping retardant.

The way it works is, first you identify what areas in the photo you do not want to animate, then you indicate the direction and speed for the motion. When finished, it can be saved as a video.

The first one, below, shows a member of the Alpine Hotshots who was working on the 2014 Norbeck Prescribed Fire in Custer State Park.

The next one is from the 2012 White Draw Fire.

And finally, retardant from a B-17.

If you’re having trouble viewing the videos, you can see them on YouTube.

To get your own prints of the original still images…..

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One person dead at fire in Fairburn, SD; structures and vegetation burned

(Originally published at 12:53 p.m. MDT July 25, 2017)
(Updated at 4:52 p.m. MDT July 25, 2017)

There was a fatality at a fire in Fairburn, South Dakota Monday morning when a civilian died near one of two burned structures. Jim Strain, Assistant Chief of the Fairburn Volunteer Fire Department who was Incident Commander on the fire, said one of the structures, a single-family residence, was occupied and the other, a two-story house, was vacant.

No other information was available about the fatality as of 4:45 p.m. on Tuesday.

After the fire started around 10 a.m. calls were received in several fire departments in the area saying multiple structures were burning in Fairburn and it was spotting into the grass — send everything you can.

Fairburn fire

At around 11:30 a.m. firefighters had the one acre of vegetation and the structure fires knocked down with the help of a single engine air tanker. Since there is no high-volume water source in the small town so water tenders were driving miles to refill.

Chief Strain said there was a great interagency effort from three counties, state, and federal agencies.

Fairburn fire Fairburn fire Fairburn fire Fairburn fire


Chilson Fire burns several dozen acres in Black Hills

Above: A South Dakota National Guard Blackhawk helicopter makes a water drop on the Chilson Fire, July 24, 2017.

(Originally published at 4:50 p.m. MDT July 24, 2017)

The Chilson Fire has burned approximately 40 acres in the Black Hills of South Dakota, halfway between Edgemont and Hot Springs south of Highway 18 and one mile southeast of Old Highway 18.

At 3 p.m. on Monday firefighters appeared to have the spread stopped, thanks to efforts by 4 engines, 3 hand crews, 3 helicopters (1 contracted Type 3 and 2 National Guard Blackhawks), and 1 single engine air tanker.

Chilson Fire
Chilson Fire, between Edgemont and Hot Springs, SD. Click to enlarge.

Since the Northern Great Plains received 28,000 cloud to ground lightning strikes on July 21 and 22, firefighters in the Black Hills have responded to around 20 fires. Most were suppressed at less than an acre, but four others burned 8, 10, and 36 acres; and this one, the Chilson Fire, that is estimated at 40 acres.

Chilson Fire
A South Dakota National Guard Blackhawk helicopter drops water on the Chilson Fire, July 24, 2017. Click to enlarge.
Chilson Fire blackhawk helicopter
A South Dakota National Guard Blackhawk helicopter works on the Chilson Fire. Click to enlarge.

Brady Fire — southeast of Edgemont, South Dakota 

Above: Brady Fire, June 29, 2017. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

(Updated at 2:09 p.m. MDT July 1, 2017)

The updated size of the Brady Fire is 172 acres. The increase from 95 acres reported yesterday is due to more accurate mapping — the fire has not grown.


(Updated at 12:40 p.m. MDT June 30, 2017)

The size of the Brady Fire 7 miles southeast of Edgemont, SD has been revised to 95 acres. Firefighters are estimating that about half an inch of rain fell on the fire Thursday night. In Hot Springs, 15 miles northeast of the fire, there was 0.12 inches overnight in addition to lots of lightning in the southern Black Hills.

Approximately 70 firefighters are on scene today, Friday, mopping up.


(Updated at 9:14 p.m. MDT June 29, 2017)

The Brady Fire, discovered Thursday afternoon, has burned dozens of acres southeast of Edgemont, South Dakota. We’ll post more information as it becomes available. The fire is burning in timber and grass on fairly steep slopes on the north side of the Cheyenne River.

The Great Plains Interagency Dispatch Center reported at 5 p.m. Thursday it had burned 25 acres. The fire continued spreading slowly after that time, but received rain from a thunderstorm at 8:15 p.m.

map Brady Fire South Dakota
Map showing the location of the Brady Fire, 7 miles southeast of Edgemont, SD.
Brady Fire South Dakota
Brady Fire, June 29, 2017. Photo by Bill Gabbert.
Brady Fire South Dakota
Brady Fire, June 29, 2017. Photo by Bill Gabbert.
Brady Fire South Dakota
Brady Fire, June 29, 2017. Photo by Bill Gabbert.


Revisiting the Norbeck prescribed fire

In case you missed it, here is the video we shot at a prescribed fire in South Dakota in 2014.

The Alpine Hotshots, a National Park Service hotshot crew from Colorado, is shown using drip torches to ignite vegetation on the Norbeck Section 2 prescribed fire. The project which began October 20, 2014 involved almost 2,000 acres in Custer State Park, Wind Cave National Park, Black Hills National Forest, and private land.


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