Rankin Fire burns hundreds of acres in Wind Cave NP

Above: Firefighters conduct a burnout operation on the Rankin Fire in Wind Cave National Park, September 12, 2017. NPS photo.

(UPDATED at 6:34 a.m. MDT September 12, 2017)

A thunderstorm Tuesday afternoon prevented the acquisition of updated satellite mapping information about the Rankin Fire during the regular afternoon overflight, but during the next pass at 2:14 a.m. MDT Wednesday the clouds had dispersed.

For the most current information on Wildfire Today about the Rankin Fire, click HERE.

The map below shows additional fire spread detected by the satellite to the south.

map Rankin Fire
The red and yellow dots represent heat detected on the Rankin Fire by a satellite. The red dots are the most current, seen at 2:14 a.m. MDT September 13, 2017. Areas with light vegetation, such as grass, may have burned and completely cooled before the satellite overflight, so the fire may be significantly larger than shown here.

There was a report that air tanker 101, an MD-87, was dispatched from Grand Junction to the fire on Tuesday.

 air tanker 101 MD-87
Air tanker 101, an MD-87, at Grand Junction, Colorado September 8, 2017. Photo by Dave Perkins.

The thunderstorm Tuesday afternoon brought strong winds to the fire area, that no doubt challenged firefighters who were attempting to limit the spread. The winds measured at Elk Mountain south of the fire were from various directions at 8 to 24 mph with gusts of 24 to 44 mph. When the storm passed over the fire the temperature dropped 15 degrees within an hour, from 95 to 80 and the relative humidity increased temporarily from 16 to 29 percent, but within three hours dropped back to 21 percent.

A weather station at Mount Rushmore, 17 miles north of the Rankin Fire, recorded 0.02″ of rain Tuesday afternoon, but there was none at Elk Mountain.


(UPDATED at 9:30 p.m. MDT September 12, 2017)

The Rocky Mountain Coordination Center reports that the lightning-caused Rankin Fire in Wind Cave National Park in southwest South Dakota has burned 760 acres.

Monday night and Tuesday firefighters conducted burning operations from a mowed line, NPS 5, and trails to help secure portions of the perimeter.

Gusty winds from a slow-moving thunderstorm cell on Tuesday caused the wind to shift from the south to the north, sending smoke into Hot Springs during the afternoon.

The fire is east of Rankin Ridge fire lookout tower between Highway 87 and NPS 5. (NPS 5 is the dirt road running generally north-south that connects Highway 87 with the 7-11/101 road south of the park.

A Type 3 Incident Management Team has assumed command of the fire.

Currently the only closures in Wind Cave National Park are the northern segment of NPS 5 and all backcountry hiking trails north of Wind Cave Canyon. The park visitor center remains open with cave tours leaving from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. throughout the day.


(Updated at 12:07 p.m. MDT September 12, 2017)

Here’s a map showing the location of the Rankin Fire in Wind Cave National Park as of 2:37 a.m. on Tuesday. The red squares represent heat detected at the fire by a satellite.

map rankin fire
The red squares represent heat detected by a satellite at 2:37 a.m. MDT September 1, 2017.

The Rankin Fire has burned approximately 300 acres as of Tuesday morning.

Monday night firefighters burned out from Hwy. 87 and NPS 5.

At noon on Tuesday the resources assigned to the fire, in addition to numerous fire engines, are one National Guard Blackhawk helicopter, one Air Attack, and a Single Engine Air Tanker is ordered.

Very little information about the fire is being made available.



(Updated at published at 9:25 p.m. MDT September 11, 2017)

A small thunderstorm passing over the southern Black Hills Sunday night left a souvenir that was discovered around 2 p.m. Monday. The Rankin Fire, caused by lightning, is burning near the Ridge and Lookout Tower of the same name, in Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota.

Rankin Fire south dakota
Rankin Fire, 4:51 p.m. MDT September 11, 2017. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Spokesperson Kelsey Bean told us at 7:25 p.m. Monday that the fire had burned approximately 20 to 30 acres and no large air tankers had been used so far at that point, but a National Guard Blackhawk helicopter and two single engine air tankers (SEATs) assisted firefighters on the ground. The SEATs came from Casper and Cody, Wyoming.

Nine fire engines from state and federal agencies were on scene this evening and more had been ordered, Ms. Bean said.

We will update this article as more information becomes available.

Rankin Fire south dakota
Rankin Fire, 4:57 p.m. MDT September 11, 2017. 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.

3 thoughts on “Rankin Fire burns hundreds of acres in Wind Cave NP”

  1. Having flown out of Rapid City (reloads) I wonder why there isn’t an initial attack air base there now. As with many Fed airbases, now closed or reload only, early delivery of retardant (CDF 20 minutes) appears to be of no concern at the Federal level. Wonder why Fed fires get so big? May be to give all those hot shot crews a job for the summer.

    1. Last I’d heard, Rapid Regional was not certified for certain combinations of firefighting aircraft and ground ops. Whether it was a local issue, an FAA issue, or a DoD issue, I no longer recall. The lack of certification prevented local reloads of Air National Guard C-130s equipped with MAFFS. Came out in the aftermath of the NCANG C-130 mishap, where the aircraft was fighting a fire near Edgemont. The C-130 could not reload at Rapid Regional, and thus was required to operate out of Cheyenne or Buckley ANGB near Denver. Whether the longer transit time was a factor in the mishap, I do not recall.


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