South Dakota: A third engine burnover on October 5

Earlier we had a report of two burnovers of engines on two fires in South Dakota on October 5. We just found out from Jim Strain about another one that occurred the same day.

Subject: Third Engine burnover in South Dakota

Wednesday, October 5th, saw yet another report of an entrapment on a prairie fire in the State of South Dakota. This is the third burn over/entrapment incident to be reported for that date. This incident occurred in Hutchinson County, about 1 mile South and 1 ¼ miles west of Tripp, SD. Jim Burk called the fire department today and gathered some more facts on the situation.

The fire was burning in CRP (Fuel Model 3) and had jumped the county road. The Tripp VFD engine was driving through the smoke, become disorientated, and drove down the steep embankment on the south road ditch. The engine did not roll, but as the firefighters exited the vehicle, one firefighter twisted his ankle trying to get up the steep embankment, and the other firefighter tried to crawl up the ditch, but could not, so exited the ditch running towards the west. That firefighter sustained 2nd degree burns to the face and arms. He will require skin grafts on the upper arms and is in the hospital at Sioux Falls. No damage to air ways. The firefighter was wearing his structure turn out bunker pants.

The weather from the nearest RAWS (Lake Andes) showed 95 degrees, 19 RH and winds SE at 25.

I have filed the ‘Wildland Fire Fatality and Entrapment Initial Report” through GPC and RMCC to NICC.

The SD Fire Marshal’s Office is checking into this report as well. This report is initial, and all information is preliminary and subject to change.


Asst. Chief — Operations, South Dakota Dept of Agriculture – Division of Wildland Fire Suppression

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

One thought on “South Dakota: A third engine burnover on October 5”

  1. All I can say about the Engine crew down the ditch Holy smokes!!! This is exactly why wildfire training is so important! 95 degrees 19rh wind speed of 25 is a formula for disaster. I tell my crews over and over this is where you become an owl. Grow a 360 degree swivel on your neck cause you can be overrun in seconds.

    We put signs on the highway telling the public not to drive through heavy smoke for just this reason “Your Blind” We close roads for this very reason.

    In several of my wildfire training sessions this is addressed over and over if your in the down wind Smoke Field your in the fires path!

    When you cant see its too late! When you see it heading your way reverse direction and get out quickly before your overrun. Trying to punch through heavy smoke is just plain dangerous and unnessary. This is another case of “oh it wont hurt me I know what I’m doing” well all I can say is they were mistaken.

    I hope our brothers and sisters up there get well soon and I hope others learn from this very bad mistake in judgement.

    The head and flanks of a wildfire is not where you play games with your life! Know when to leave! If you dont know “When in doubt get out!” Staying alive is more important than anything else. All that is nessary to avoid this kind of thing happening is not driving through. “STOP Short” let the fire pass by and then chase it down you will still be alive and in the fight.


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