Rankin Fire expands to over 1,000 acres while the Beaver Fire grows nearby

Above: An MD-87 air tanker maneuvers through the smoky air over the Beaver Fire just outside Wind Cave National Park, September 13, 2017. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

(UPDATED at 7:51 p.m. MDT September 14, 2017)

Thursday night there were enough openings in the clouds for satellites to get a pretty good look at the Rankin Fire in Wind Cave National Park in southwest South Dakota and the new fire first reported Wednesday afternoon west of the park, the Beaver Fire.

This new fire is near the intersection of Beaver Creek and Flynn Creek Roads in the Black Hills National Forest not far from the old Cold Springs School. It slowed overnight and Thursday afternoon was estimated at 350 acres. No structures are reported burned and the cause is still under investigation. At this time there are no mandatory evacuations. Firefighters will be conducting controlled burning operations on Thursday to help secure portions of the perimeter.

The size of the Rankin Fire is now estimated at 2,133 acres.

The map below shows the locations of the two fires. The red, brown, and yellow dots represent heat detected by a satellite. The red dots, the most recent, were seen at 3:37 a.m. MDT September 14, 2017.

Rankin Beaver fire south dakota
Map showing the location of the Rankin and Beaver Fires. The red, brown, and yellow dots represent heat detected by a satellite. The red dots were seen at 3:37 a.m. MDT September 14, 2017. Click to enlarge.

The weather forecast for the fire area calls for a nearly 100 probability of rain Thursday night, with a chance of additional showers through noon on Saturday. The total rainfall could be more than 0.6 inch, which would be enough to slow the spread of the two fires to a crawl, at least temporarily, but not enough to put them out. It should reduce the smoke in the Pringle and Hot Springs areas.


(Originally published at 12:05 a.m. MDT September 14, 2017.)

Influenced again by erratic winds generated by scattered thunderstorms, the Rankin Fire in the northeast corner of Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota continued to grow Tuesday night and Wednesday, blackening another 432 acres to bring the total up to 1,192 acres, according to the Great Plains Interagency Dispatch Center in Rapid City.

More firefighters are pouring into the area as a Type 2 Incident Management Team is getting prepared to assume command of the fire Thursday morning. On Wednesday two large air tankers, converted MD-87 airliners, dropped water or retardant on the fire accompanied by two helicopters, a Bell 407 and a “Firehawk” Sikorsky S70A.

Another fire was discovered at about 2 p.m. Wednesday about 2.5 miles east of the Rankin Fire just outside the National Park boundary in the Black Hills National Forest. Named the Beaver Fire for the nearby road and creek of the same name, it grew rapidly as the MD-87’s and firefighters on the ground attempted to limit the spread. By Wednesday night it was estimated to have covered about 140 acres. It is four miles east of Pringle and 12 miles north of Hot Springs.

We saw two Hotshot Crews arriving at the fires Wednesday, the Craig and the Alpine Hotshots, both from Colorado, at about the same time a fire engine arrived from the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control. Likely there are many other crews, engines, and logistical resources that have arrived or are en route.

(Click on a photo below to see larger versions. The captions are at the top.)

More photos of aircraft on the fire are at FireAviation.com.

On Wednesday the weather station at Elk Mountain in Wind Cave National Park recorded a high of 89 degrees, relative humidity in the 20’s, and southwest to southeast winds of 4 to 15 mph gusting at 16 to 28. Under those conditions wildfires are likely to continue to spread unless they run out of fuel.

The forecast Thursday for the fire area will not be as conducive to rapid fire growth since the humidity is expected to rise during the day from about 40 percent in the morning to over 60 percent by sundown, with the chance for rain increasing during that period from 6 percent to 39 percent. As the chance for rain continues, by Friday evening there could be about 3/10 of an inch of rain in the area with another 0.05 inch by Saturday night. The wind Wednesday night and Thursday will be from the northwest, north, and northeast, which could push smoke into Hot Springs.

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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.

2 thoughts on “Rankin Fire expands to over 1,000 acres while the Beaver Fire grows nearby”

  1. Looks like the fire is done. Crews are checking in to demob. The shot crews were able to burn out and wrap things up. Things look nice and cold.

  2. Thank, Bill. Reports like this on fires in the Black Hills area are the reason I subscribe to Wildfire Today!


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