Update on High Plains Fire in the Black Hills

The service for Dwain Hudson who passed away while en route to the fire has been scheduled

 High Plains Fire
Screenshot from drone footage of the High Plains Fire northwest of Custer, SD at 7 p.m. MDT April 17, 2019. Video by Custer County Search And Rescue. Click to enlarge.

The High Plains Fire five air miles south of Jewel Cave National Monument in the Black Hills of South Dakota has been more accurately mapped at 140 acres. The lightning-caused fire was reported at 12:29 p.m. on April 17.

The photo above is a screenshot from drone footage obtained over the fire by the Custer County Search and Rescue Service at 7 p.m. the day the fire started. The image quality is quite good considering it was cloudy and was filmed 40 minutes before sunset.

Part of the fire is in the footprint of the Jasper Fire that burned 83,000 acres in August, 2000, as indicated by the fallen trees from 0:25 to 1:15.

The service for Dwain Hudson who passed away while en route to the fire has been scheduled, but the family is requesting that it be intimate in nature. Due to that and the limited size of the venue they are requesting that only the three local fire departments and ambulance service attend. The service will be April 27 at 11 a.m. at McColley’s Chapels in Custer, South Dakota.

Condolences can be sent to the Argyle Volunteer Fire Department, P.O. Box 176, Pringle, SD 57773. More information will be at the Department’s Facebook page.

Firefighter dies while responding to wildfire in South Dakota

A firefighter that was responding to the High Plains Fire five air miles south of Jewel Cave National Monument in the Black Hills of South Dakota has died.

Custer County Emergency Management reported that on April 17, 2019 Dwayne Hudson, a firefighter with the Argyle Fire Department, experienced a medical emergency while en route as a passenger in one of the vehicles. He was treated by fellow responders and the Custer Ambulance Service on scene and continued to be treated while being transported to Custer Regional Hospital. However, he did not survive.

The High Plains Fire started Wednesday afternoon from a lighting strike and as of Thursday morning had burned approximately 100 acres.

Our sincere condolences go out to Mr. Hudson’s family, friends, and coworkers.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Matt. Typos or errors, report them HERE.

High Plains Fire burns 100 acres in Black Hills

The fire is southwest of Custer, South Dakota

map high plains fire black hills
Map showing the location of the High Plains Fire. The brown dots represent heat detected by a satellite at 1:46 p.m. MDT April 17, 2019. Click to enlarge.

(UPDATED at 1:10 p.m. MDT April 18, 2019)

Wednesday afternoon a firefighter that was responding to the fire, Dwayne Hudson, experienced a medical emergency while en route and passed away. More details.


(Originally published at 11:18 a.m. MDT April 18, 2019)

A lightning-caused fire has burned 100 acres in the Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota. The High Plains Fire is southwest of Custer near Pass Creek Road five air miles south of Jewel Cave National Monument and Highway 16. It was reported at 12:29 p.m. on April 17 and is being fought by federal, state, and volunteer fire departments.

Erin Considine, a spokesperson for the Great Plains Dispatch Zone, said firefighters expect to have it controlled by 7 p.m. today.

The weather forecast for the fire area Thursday afternoon will not be favorable for the firefighters. It predicts southeast winds of 18 to 21 mph with gusts to 30, humidity in the low 30s, and a high of 53 degrees.

Telephone company says Legion Lake Fire was caused by “act of God”

The 54,000-acre fire became the third largest in the recorded history of South Dakota

Legion Lake Fire
Legion Lake Fire December 12, 2017. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

A telephone company that is being sued by landowners for allegedly causing the Legion Lake Fire claims the 54,000-acre fire was caused by an “act of God”.

There is no question that a tree falling on a Black Hills Energy power line created sparks which ignited the fire December 11, 2017 in Custer State Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Three families claim in the lawsuit that Mt. Rushmore Telephone Company weakened the root system of the Ponderosa pine by digging a utility trench, making it less resistant to strong winds which were present when the fire started.

Below are excerpts from an article in the Rapid City Journal:

In its response, attorneys for Black Hills Energy deny almost everything in the pleading documents, save that a tree fell on a company power line. BHE contests their liability and suggests the plaintiffs themselves should be viewed as equally if not more guilty for their damage in the Legion Lake Fire. 
“Plaintiffs failed to mitigate their damages,” attorneys for Black Hills Energy write, “and any damages resulting from Plaintiffs’ failure to mitigate their damages may not be recovered.”
Mt. Rushmore Telephone Company’s response is even shorter, arguing the Legion Lake Fire was “the result of an act of God.”

The 10,000 acres of private land that burned in the fire is used for raising cattle and many land owners lost pastures, fences, and winter hay.

More than half of the portion of Custer State Park that was available for their bison herd burned, and park officials asked for hay donations to help the animals get through the winter. Over 8,000 acres of Wind Cave National Park also burned in the Legion Lake Fire and in the earlier Rankin Fire, but park spokesperson Tom Farrell said they still had plenty of forage in reserve for the 260 elk and 350 bison.

Legion Lake Fire
Legion Lake Fire, December 13, 2018. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Vineyard Fire may have been caused by flare gun

Vineyard Fire hot springs south dakota
Vineyard Fire at approximately 6:30 p.m. MDT August 11, 2018. Photo by Wendee Pettis.

A juvenile with a flare gun may have ignited the Vineyard Fire that burned 560 acres at Hot Springs, South Dakota.

According to a cause and origin report completed by fire investigator Jeff McBraw, a 16-year old girl “…stated that her boyfriend who is also a juvenile possibly started this fire with a flare gun,” McGraw wrote.

The Fall River County Sheriff’s Office will handle any further investigation.

The fire started August 11 near an abandoned vineyard and caused evacuations on the east side of Hot Springs.

Wrapping up the Vineyard Fire

Above: On August 12 firefighters initiated burnouts as they constructed fireline. This can remove unburned vegetation between the line and the fire. Photo by William Ing.

With the heavy rain that hit the Hot Springs, South Dakota area Wednesday the threat from the Vineyard Fire has greatly diminished, with residents reporting around an inch of precipitation. On Tuesday the firefighters stopped providing updates on the Facebook page created for the fire and an entry was never made on InciWeb — indications that the firefighting activities have slowed.

But rain can’t completely extinguish a wildfire that involves timber. Roots can smolder underground for weeks or months and burning logs don’t always go out by simply applying water from above.

Vineyard Fire map
Map of the Vineyard Fire.

According to the last official update from Great Plains Fire Information on August 14 the fire had burned 560 acres, all evacuations had been lifted, and the cause was still under investigation.

William Ing took these photos on August 11 and 12 from Butler Park and the Dairy Queen in Hot Springs. Thanks William!

Vineyard Fire Blackhawk helicopter
An Air National Guard Blackhawk helicopter drops water adjacent to onlooking firefighters (lower right).

Map of the Vineyard Fire