South Dakota: Firefighters gain upper hand on Apple fire

Apple fire
Apple fire
A firefighter on the Apple fire improves the fireline on March 28, 2012. Photo by Bill Gabbert

Firefighters on the Apple fire 8 miles southeast of Custer, South Dakota have completely lined the fire and burned out the indirect line we reported yesterday. The fire was first detected at about noon on Wednesday and started from a lighting strike on Monday.

Today the 132 firefighters will be mopping up, strengthening firelines, and mitigating the hazards from possible falling trees along Flynn Creek Road. The weather today and tomorrow will be challenging, with the relative humidity in the teens and 15 mph winds gusting up to 22 mph.

The two National Guard blackhawk helicopters have been released.

While the completed and burned-out fireline meets the definition of 100% containment, the Incident Commander is calling it only 15% contained. This has been a trend in recent years, with ICs confusing the terms control and contain.

The dispatch system has had to reach out far and wide to find resources for this 546-acre fire. We know of one engine crew in the Greater Yellowstone area that was dispatched Thursday night to the fire. Hand crews came from Montana and other states. Soon after it started on Wednesday, the IC requested two large Type 1 helicopters. One of the orders has been filled, and that was with a Kmax helicopter which barely (if that) qualifies as a Type 1. The other order was still unfilled as of Thursday night. The two large air tankers that arrived empty at Rapid City more than 6 hours after the first initial attack resources were dispatched had to be stolen from the Lower North Fork fire in Colorado. At the time that fire was reportedly “15% contained”, but as discussed above, containment percentages have become meaningless. The statistic can no longer be used for prioritizing fires.

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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.