Jasper Fire, 13 years later

Jasper Fire south dakota
Jasper Fire pyrocumulus, about two hours after the fire started, August 24, 2000. NPS photo by Bill Gabbert.

It has been almost 13 years since the Jasper Fire raged across 83,000 acres of the Black Hills of South Dakota. It started when a woman stopped on Highway 16 a couple of miles west of Jewel Cave National Monument to pee, she said later. Before she left, she lit a match, dropped it, and watched as it ignited a few pine needles and then started spreading across the forest floor. When I got to the area about two hours later I took the photo above of the pyrocumulus cloud over the fire.

Over the next several days the wind direction changed frequently driving the fire in different directions. It burned into the Black Hills National Forest and through Jewel Cave National Monument. But thanks to the prescribed fire program and fuel mitigation work that had been going on at Jewel Cave for a decade or so, no structures were damaged, except for an old historic outhouse which burned during mopup when the engine crew working nearby had their thumbs up their asses back turned.

As you can see in the article below by the Black Hills National Forest, rehab and mitigation is still going on.


Date: April 2, 2013

Forest Service Continues Management within the Jasper Fire Area

Custer, SD – Black Hills National Forest Officials continue management actions within the Jasper and Roger’s Shack Fire areas that occurred on the Hell Canyon Ranger District west of Custer nearly 13 years ago. These two fire areas total about 90,000 acres.

Tree planting is scheduled to begin in April, to assist with reforestation of the Jasper area. Research plots established within the fire boundary have resulted in and continue to provide opportunity for valuable local research on fire effects and post-fire recovery.

Hell Canyon District Ranger, Lynn Kolund recently signed a decision which will allow for approximately 16,500 acres of fire hazard reduction in these fire areas. Over the course of about 10 years, prescribed burning will be used to reduce the fire hazard in these areas. In addition, the decision includes about 650 acres of thinning to improve the health and vigor of islands of forest stands within these areas. “Over the next several years we will work on this project to make the area more resilient for the future,” said District Ranger Lynn Kolund.

Fire officials are concerned about the fire danger this area presents as most of the dead trees have fallen over and grass has grown up around them. In some areas, the resulting fuel concentrations are 5 feet deep. According to Kolund, “Fires in these areas quickly spread like a grass fire but have the heat of a timber fire; they’re very dangerous to firefighters.”

Forest officials are focused on restoring the land, but safety is a top priority when it comes to fire danger. “There is a tremendous amount of fuel loading out there and it is a dangerous situation” said Gwen Lipp, Fire Management Officer for the Hell Canyon Ranger District. “When we get a wildfire in this area, it will be extremely difficult to control. This project will reduce the long term fire hazard and also improve the ability for firefighters to move quickly to put out a fire in the future.”

In addition to the prescribed burning, Forest officials will be thinning vegetation and planting new ponderosa pine trees. Kolund said, “We are doing our job as a land management agency. Restoration of this area of the Forest will ensure its availability for future generations.”

For more information on the Hell Canyon Maintenance Burn project, visit http://www.fs.fed.us/nepa/fs-usda-pop.php/?project=22242

(end of USFS article)

Jasper Fire
The Jasper Fire approaches the Visitor Center at Jewel Cave National Monument, August 25, 2000. NPS photo by Bill Gabbert.
Jasper Fire
Firefighters use foam to protect the Visitor Center at Jewel Cave National Monument during the Jasper Fire, August 25, 2000. NPS photo by Bill Gabbert.


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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 “Jasper Fire, 13 years later”

  1. Speaking of thumbs up asses, the Forest Service cant seem to get their management straight within the burn. They are replanting some areas and killing regen in others with prescribed fire (that didn’t meet their own objectives). The prescribed fire last year on southern Ditch Creek was intended to reduce heavy fuels, but due to the 100hr fuel moisture, they had little consumption. What they did achieve was an unacceptable level of mortality in the pine regeneration. How long until they decide the site needs replanted due to low stocking levels?

    Way to waste some of the most productive timber-lands in the southern hills!


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