Legion Lake Fire east of Custer, SD slowed Monday night

The fire has burned over 2,500 acres in Custer State Park

Legion Lake Fire

Above: The Legion Lake Fire, looking south at 1:16 p.m. MST December 11, 2017. 

(UPDATED at 7:17 a.m. MST December 12, 2017)

The spread of the Legion Lake Fire 6 miles east of Custer, South Dakota slowed overnight as the strong winds from Monday decreased. The fire has forced the closure of the park and the evacuation of the Blue Bell Lodge on Highway 87.

It started near the Lodge off Highway 16A just before 8 a.m. Monday and was pushed southeast by winds gusting up to 53 mph. By 4 p.m. the wind had decreased to 4 mph and remained between 1 and 8 mph through the night. The suspected cause is a power line hit by a falling tree near the Lodge.

Articles on Wildfire Today about the Legion Lake Fire are tagged “Legion Lake Fire”.

Monday afternoon fire personnel said it had burned 2,500 acres. Our very unofficial estimate based on satellite data is that by 3:06 a.m. Tuesday the fire had covered between 2,500 and 3,000 acres .

The wind Tuesday will be a little stronger than was predicted Monday, and should be out of the northwest at 9 to 13 mph. The relative humidity will hover around 20 percent by the afternoon and the temperature should be in the high 50’s under mostly sunny skies.

Tuesday night and Wednesday firefighters will be challenged by strong winds again — 17 to 24 mph out of the northwest gusting over 30 mph.

Two large air tankers and a lead plane will be available at Rapid City beginning at 8 a.m. Tuesday. A helicopter has also been ordered. No aircraft were used on the fire Tuesday other than a quick orbit or two by the lead plane as it arrived late in the afternoon.

Legion Lake Fire fire south dakota
Map showing the approximate perimeter of the Legion Lake Fire in Custer State Park in South Dakota at 3:06 a.m. MST December 12, 2017.

The fire is burning south of the Legion Lake Lodge on both sides of Badger Clark Memorial Road. It is east of Highway 87, and has reached Heddy Draw.


(UPDATED at 5:27 p.m. MST December 11, 2017)

The Legion Lake Fire in Custer State Park in the Black Hills grew to 2,500 acres Monday afternoon, said Scott Jacobson, a spokesperson for the Black Hills National Forest. A Type 3 Incident Management Team with Incident Commander Rob Powell is on scene and Jay Esperance’s Type 2 IMT has been ordered. The fire is south of Highway 16A about halfway between Custer and Hermosa.

Two large air tankers (including Tanker 101, an MD-87), an Air Attack aircraft, and a lead plane should have arrived at Rapid City late Monday afternoon. T-101 was at there by about 3:30 but was waiting for a lead plane to work with him. The Incident Commander said that at that moment there was no assignment for the air tanker and the second one that was en route, and do not load them with retardant. They were told to be available for missions at 8 a.m. Tuesday. A helicopter is also on order. Four 20-person Type 2 hand crews were ordered Monday morning.

Typically this time of the year no firefighting aircraft are on duty in South Dakota, and it can be difficult to find them anywhere in the country. But quite a few were rounded up last week for the wildfires in Southern California.

At 4:50 p.m. Mr. Jacobson said 30 engines and a total of 200 personnel were assigned to the fire.

The strong winds that caused the fire to spread so quickly on Monday will decrease overnight and will be from the west or northwest at about 6 to 8 mph Monday night and Tuesday. The relative humidity Tuesday will be about 20 percent and the temperature will reach 56 degrees. Tuesday night and Wednesday will be quite windy, 15 mph out of the northwest with gusts at 25 to 28 mph. In light of that forecast, firefighters should be able to make good progress on Tuesday before the winds hit again the next day.

map legion lake fire south dakota
Map showing the approximate perimeter of the Legion Lake Fire in Custer State Park in South Dakota at 1:07 p.m. MST December 11, 2017.


(Updated at 1:23 p.m. MST December 11, 2017)

The Legion Lake Fire was reported near the Legion Lake Lodge in Custer State Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota just before 8 a.m. MST on December 11, 2017. By 10: 20 a.m. it had burned an estimated 1,000 acres about 6 air miles east of Custer. A Type 3 Incident Management Team has been ordered. Portions of highway 16A and 87 are closed.

There has been very little precipitation in the Black Hills during the last month or so. At 9:18 a.m. MST today a weather station a few miles southeast of the fire recorded 45 degrees, 20 percent relative humidity, and winds out of the north at 22 mph gusting to 45.

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. Google+

9 thoughts on “Legion Lake Fire east of Custer, SD slowed Monday night”

  1. This probably is a record for Rapid City Air Tanker Base. Loading jet tankers on 12-12-17. Without this web site I doubt if any fire info would be available for South Dakota this time of year. Maybe on IncWeb?

    1. There is information year round through the http://gpfireinfo.blogspot.com/
      This is primarily initial attack information and used until a team takes over an incident. Then it is the teams responsibility to provide information. The blog has been around for several years. You can also follow GP Fire Info on twitter.

  2. Why are we spending money on airtanker drops in SD in mid-December? If we can’t allow fires to burn in December we have 0 chance of ever restoring our departed forests. If you only have a hammer….

    1. So far no drops have been made in SD this month. Do you have enough specific, detailed, local information to proclaim that there could not possibly be a need for drops on the Legion Lake Fire?

      1. Bill I see that they have added DIV&#’s to the Updated map showing several of these DIV areas in the Custer State Park, exactly what is the purpose of these DIV? And why don’t they have the actual lodges,outbuildings, or campgrounds named and listed on this map?

        1. Linda, a fire or other type of incident can be divided into geographical areas called Divisions to make them more manageable. They are sized to make it feasible for the person in charge of that area, the “Division Supervisor”, to physically oversee the entire area and supervise the workers assigned to him or her in that Division. Another purpose is to ensure that the span of control is within the prescribed limits. In the Incident Command System no person should supervise more than seven resources. If that number increases, the Divisions can be made smaller to reduce the number of resources and therefore, the span of control.

          In the rest of the world, it is common for one person to supervise more than seven people. But on an emergency incident, it has been determined that keeping that number at seven or less provides a safer work environment for the personnel in a rapidly changing situation where a bad decision or an overlooked subordinate can be deadly.

      2. I have never been to SD but I don’t think it unreasonable to ask why lives are being put at risk and money spent to put out a fire that is burning in a fire dependent ecosystem in mid-December. What ownership did the fire start on? Satellite imagery for the area shows it has been heavily thinned – Does the region have any history of managing fires for resource benefit?

    2. Uhmm, because structures were threatened. I assume from your comment you know fire well and were there. You should already know this.

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