Mine Draw Fire being fought 6 miles south of Mount Rushmore

In the Black Hills of South Dakota

(UPDATED at 3:36 p.m. MDT June 25, 2020)

Jim Strain who took this photo from the Fairburn, SD area, said it looked like this storm cell was over the Mine Draw Fire. Posted by Jim at 1:04 p.m. MDT June 25, 2020.

Custer State Park announced that as of 2 p.m. today the Mine Draw Fire is 100 percent contained. We are waiting to hear if the Governor has declared it officially contained.

That was around the time that a very large thunderstorm cell was centered over the fire. As of 3:18 p.m. 0.25″ of rain had been measured at the Custer State Park airport.

Mine Draw Fire rain
Radar shows rain over the Mine Draw Fire. Posted by Galen Hoogestraat at 1:32 p.m. MDT June 25, 2020.

(UPDATED at 12:14 p.m. MDT June 25, 2020)

The only official information available today about the Mine Draw Fire was issued by the South Dakota Governor’s office. The update said the  fire has burned 60 acres, which is a decrease from the Wednesday afternoon estimate of 150 acres.

The fire was reported at 11:19 a.m. June 24 in Custer State Park six miles south of Mount Rushmore.

The statement from the Governor’s office said that in addition to the hand crews and fire engines, there are two Type 1 helicopters and one air attack plane on scene for a total of 117 personnel. Yesterday three Type 1 Hotshot crews were at the fire or en route.

A resident near the fire said that last night the wind in the fire area was calm and there was not much smoke. Another person who was farther way could clearly see the smoke column yesterday but early this morning none was visible.

The weather station at the Custer State Park airport recorded a maximum relative humidity overnight of 70 percent. At 11:18 a.m. MDT today it had dropped to 39 percent, the temperature was 83, and the wind was 12 mph out of the northeast gusting up to 21 mph. The forecast for the fire area at 5 p.m. calls for the temperature going down to 73, humidity 54 percent, and increasing cloud cover with showers and thunderstorms likely.

With the overnight conditions, the forecast, and the resources on hand, the firefighters could have a good chance of stopping the spread of the 60-acre fire today.

(UPDATED at 8:15 p.m. MDT June 24, 2020)

Two additional hotshot crews are en route to the Mine Draw Fire east of Custer, South Dakota — the Roosevelt Hotshots from Colorado and the Wyoming Hotshots.

The fire is half a mile north of the Legion Lake Fire that burned 54,000 acres in December, 2017.

The South Dakota Governor’s senior advisor and policy director, Maggie Seidel, said at 8:15 p.m. MDT Wednesday that the fire has burned 150 acres.

The customary system for distributing information about wildfires in the Black Hills is with local agency information officers coordinated through the Great Plains Interagency Dispatch Center. But for this fire, information is being controlled by Governor Kristi Noem’s office.

(Originally published at 5:37 p.m. MDT June 24, 2020)

Mine Draw Fire
Mine Draw Fire, June 24, 2020. Photo by Custer State Park.

Firefighters in the Black Hills are attacking a fire that was discovered at 11:19 Wednesday morning in Custer State Park six miles south of Mount Rushmore.

The Mine Draw Fire had grown to 150 acres by 4:30 p.m. and was being attacked by firefighters on the ground and in the air north of Highway 16A and east of Highway 87. The blaze is west of the Custer State Park maintenance shop on the north side of 87 and seven miles east of Custer.

Mine Draw Fire map
Map showing the location of the Mine Draw Fire June 24, 2020.

Scott Jacobson, a spokesperson for the Great Plains Interagency Dispatch Center said firefighting resources working on the fire included fire engines from several agencies, dozers, and the Tatanka Hotshots.

A variety of firefighting aircraft were seen over the fire Wednesday afternoon:

  • Two large air tankers: T-02, a BAe-146; and T-162, an RJ85; they were dispatched from Pueblo, CO and Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport near Denver, respectively.
  • Three Single Engine Air tankers, all Air Tractor 802s;
  • Two helicopters, a Sikorsky S-61A and an Airbus AS50;
  • Plus a lead plane and air attack.

The air tankers were refilling with retardant the Rapid City Air Tanker Base at the Regional Airport.

Mine Draw Fire aircraft
Aircraft over the Mine Draw Fire at 4:39 p.m. MDT June 24, 2020.

The Black Hills are in a moderate drought, and the weather Wednesday has been on the high side of moderate from a firefighters’ point of view. Since the fire started, the weather station not far away at the Custer State Park airport has recorded temperatures in the mid 80s, relative humidity around 30 percent, and winds out of the east or northeast at 4 to 8 mph gusting at 12 to 16 mph.

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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.

13 thoughts on “Mine Draw Fire being fought 6 miles south of Mount Rushmore”

  1. Kelo said their staff was informed that reporters cannot film without permission of the Governor. Joke right?

  2. Those SD politicians just can’t help themselves. Hopefully this thing doesn’t go full Charlie Foxtrot.

  3. How can the fire be 150 acres Wednesday according to the governors assistant and 60 today? Something is fishy here. The governor should not be involved with this unless she is hiding something. Do they think arson? Lightening strike? Will we ever know. If common sense sets in with the governor…..NO FIREWORKS!!!! Lives and the beautiful Black Hills are more important than the President and God knows how many tourists. Where will they escape to if a fire does start? I think the 4th of July will go on without FIREWORKS! Thank you Bill for your updates.

    1. It is not uncommon for fire sizes to be reduced, sometimes significantly, in the day or days after initial report and size up.

      Fire sizes are estimated by the Incident Commander, which can sometimes be a tall order when final size estimates are generated under smoky or low light conditions, in difficult terrain, etc..

      If a fire is large enough, a helicopter or aircraft will map it aerially. With a 150 acre estimate and a 60 acre final tally, probably someone walked the perimeter with a GPS device to provide this final result.

      1. Matt is right. But in this situation a politician, the governor of the state, has assumed control over providing information about the incident. So, it is a legitimate question in this case.

  4. I understand that the fireworks were canceled a while ago! Is this talk of fireworks at Mt. Rushmore out of date?!?

    1. Valerie, it was in the national papers that the President is excited about the Mt Rushmore firework display. See my note from above. It’s a go, as far as I think we’ve all read the EAS (baloney).

  5. Just posted in the Washington Post, that officials are concerned about two things at Mt Rushmore with this “massive firework display”: wildfires and spread of Covid-19.

    “ Neither federal nor state officials have imposed social distancing requirements as part of the gathering. The state tourism department, which is distributing 7,500 tickets for the event, has estimated that it has had requests for at least 125,000…”

    “…We are confident that the Rushmore Fireworks celebration can be conducted safely,” Fury said, adding that organizers are monitoring weather forecasts. The Interior Department has positioned firefighting resources at the site, according to a senior department official…”

    “… Trump said in January that when it came to barring fireworks at Mount Rushmore, “nobody knew why, they just said environmental reasons.” And he dismissed the idea that the event would pose any risks to the massive statue depicting the images of four U.S. presidents. “What can burn? It’s stone,” he said…”

    There’s much more, including fundraising activity in SD and MT surrounding the event. How will they evacuate 7,500-125K people if there are fires? No concern about Park personnel or wildland firefighters and all related personnel needing to assist if there were an incidents.

  6. I’m not happy with the fact that Noem is controlling the release of information on this fire, but it explains why information is so hard to find. I’m sure it’s related to the upcoming fireworks event at Mt Rushmore. Their decision not to release the details of the go/no go plan are highly suspect as well. They’re going to pull off that campaign rally no matter what the fire danger is.

    Thanks, Bill. You still provide the best fire information out there!

  7. Smoke from the Mine Draw Fire was discernible in the Newcastle, WY area Wednesday evening, leading the Weston County Fire Protection District to issue a statement as to the source of the smoke and reassuring readers that there was no fire within the county. I suspect that dispatch was getting worried phone calls.

  8. Wow, ominous. I wonder how the Park Superintendent feels now with the entire wildland fire community watching this nearby wildfire and the July 4th extravaganza unfold in just ten days. Thanks, Bill, for your historical context for the possible upcoming debacle.


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