Air tankers were used on Schroeder Fire the day after it started west of Rapid City

Two were flown in from New Mexico and Minnesota

Schroeder Fire helicopter
One of the South Dakota National Guard HH-60M Blackhawk helicopters working the Schroeder Fire at Rapid City, March 29, 2021. Photo via Pennington Co Sheriff.

This article was first published at

4:44 p.m. MDT, March 30, 2021

On Tuesday, the day after the 1,900-acre Schroder Fire broke out just west of Rapid City, South Dakota, two large air tankers were relocated to the tanker base at the airport.

Air Tanker 167 at Medford Oregon
File photo of Air Tanker 167, an RJ85, at Medford Oregon September 9, 2019. Photo by Tim Crippin.

Tanker 105, an MD-87, flew  in from New Mexico, and Tanker 167, an RJ85 arrived from Minnesota.

Each of the tankers had made at least two drops on the fire as of mid-afternoon Tuesday.

Bighorn Fire Tanker 105 Tanker 10 BAe-146
File photo of Tanker 105 (foreground), an MD-87 operated by Erickson Aero Tanker (N295EA), and Tanker 10, a BAe-146 (N472NA) operated by Neptune Aviation, working the Bighorm Fire near Tucson, June, 2020. Ned Harris photo.

Other aircraft working the fire today include a fixed wing aerial supervision module, two National Guard Helicopters, and a PC12 intelligence gathering aircraft owned and operated by the state of Colorado.

Fire officials said Tuesday afternoon there were no additional closures or evacuations, and residents along Cavern Road could return to their homes. Since Highway 44 is still closed from Rapid City, the local residents will need to access the area from Johnson Siding.

With some active fire still in the area, there is an expectation that the current road and neighborhood closures will continue through Tuesday night.

There has been no update on the size of the fire since it was mapped at 1,900 acres Monday evening.

The number of destroyed homes remains at one, and that resident on Blue Sky Road has been notified. At least two outbuildings have burned, as well as a deck on a residence.

The elevated fire danger and the passage of the cold front with 50 mph+ winds which caused the fire to spread very rapidly was predicted two days before the fire started on Monday.

Weather forecast two days before the Schroeder Fire
Weather forecast two days before the Schroeder Fire

The wind was too strong for any aircraft to be used safely or effectively Monday, so if the aircraft had been proactively prepositioned on Sunday they probably would have been grounded on Monday when the fire was reported that morning. One person we talked to on Tuesday who was not authorized to speak for the firefighting agencies about the air tankers said, “Yesterday the winds were too high. No one wanted to come to South Dakota.” However there was a report that a National Guard Blackhawk based in Rapid City made some marginally effective drops late in the day on Monday after the wind speeds decreased.

If you are a weather geek, you will be fascinated by the data captured as the cold front moved into the Schroeder Fire area on Monday, March 29. The fire was reported at 9:22 a.m. MDT Monday.

Schroeder Fire aircraft
Schroeder Fire as seen from an air attack or lead plane aircraft, March 29, 2021. @PennCoFire photo. The distortion of the propellers is caused by the rolling shutter that is used in most cell phones.
Schroeder Fire, March 29, 2021
Schroeder Fire as seen from Rapid City, March 29, 2021. @PennCoFire photo

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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.