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Workers Accidentally Caused Custer State Park Fire, Report Says

Custer County Sheriff's Office

A June wildfire in Custer State park was accidentally started by park workers, according to an origin and cause report. 

The report says workers routinely pick up ashes and pieces of wood from campfire rings. They soak everything down and dump it on a debris pile near the park maintenance shop. 

But on June 24, there were embers in the pile.  

“Material that contained hot embers was placed on or near the pile that ignited,” the report says. 

The resulting wildfire grew to 60 acres before it was contained. Firefighters got help from a storm that dumped rain on the fire. 

The origin and cause report says the cost to fight the fire was $325,000. The report is from the Wildland Fire Division of the state Department of Agriculture. The department declined an interview request but sent a written statement. It says a review is ongoing to determine whether any of the costs are reimbursable, or if they’ll all be covered by the state fire fund. 

The Department of Game, Fish and Parks manages the park. It also declined an interview. Parks Division Director Scott Simpson said in a written statement, “We’ve evaluated the process of dealing with campfire remnants and ash. Changes are already in place to help minimize future incidents.”