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. 

Credit Josh Hoffman / Black Hills National Forest

Forecasts show an increased risk of wildfires in western South Dakota in the next few weeks after two of the wettest years in state history.

Darren Clabo is the state’s Fire Meteorologist. He says the past two seasons were very wet with minimal fires.  

South Dakota Fire Meteorologist's Wildfire Concerns

Jun 29, 2020

In The Moment … June 29, 2020 Show 848 Hour 1

A relatively calm 2018 and 2019 has some South Dakotans less aware of the risk of wildfires in the Black Hills and the western part of the state. As we head into a hot July, what's the wildfire outlook? Today we welcome Darren Clabo, Ph.D., to the program. Darren is a research scientist at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology and the state's fire meteorologist.  

Meteorologist Predicts Less Fire Activity For 2019

Apr 25, 2019
Josh Hoffman / Black Hills National Forest

The state wildfire meteorologist for South Dakota anticipates a slower than average wildfire season this year.

A wetter than average spring and summer are forecast for 2019. But even two weeks of dry weather and above average temperatures could change that during peak fire season months.

Expect a fire season much like last years… or even less.

Statewide, about 5,000 acres caught fire last year. That’s below ten percent of the acreage burned the preceding three years.

Charles Michael Ray / SDPB

Last summer’s Crow Peak wildfire near Spearfish resulted in a hub of information being released to the public about the fire’s status.

Fire officials used various strategies to get the word out to the public, but they say one particular approach worked especially well.  

Text message alerts sent to subscribers through the 211 Helpline ensured people received the latest news on the wildfire.

2016 Spring, Fall SD Wildfires Follow Climate Warming Pattern

Nov 13, 2016
Michael Engelhart / Black Hills National Forest

2016 brought significant spring and fall wildfires to South Dakota.  The State Fire Meteorologist Darren  Clabo says these fires follow a trend of longer fire seasons.

During major wildfires Clabo is on hand to help crews predict the weather and plan out their attack.   When he’s not helping fight fires, Clabo spends time tracking the climate.

Keep Aware Of Dry Conditions When Shooting Fireworks

Jun 27, 2016
Rapid City Police Department

Rapid City Fire Department officials say current conditions are prime for wildfire, and residents should be extra careful when discharging fireworks. State Fire Marshal Paul Merriman says all South Dakotans should be cautious. He says even when vegetation is green, it can still ignite.

Prescribed Burn Helps Cold Fire Crews

May 24, 2016
Michael Engelhart / Black Hills National Forest

It’s been over a month since the Cold Fire cut through the Southern Black Hills. It burned almost two-thousand acres of land, but officials say it could have been worse. They say a previous prescribed burn in the area helped slow the progress of the wildfire.

In 2014, officials ran a prescribed burn on forest land near Pringle. Almost two years later, a wildfire closed in on the treated area.

Matt Spring of the Hell Canyon Ranger District says that prescribed burn helped control the Cold Fire that started April 2.  

Black Hills Firefighter Wins National Award

Apr 29, 2016
Black Hills National Forest

Todd Pechota  is the National Forest Fire Management Officer of the Year.

He works for the Black Hills National Forest and lives in Custer.  

Pechota is a Type One Incident Commander.   He is the leader of one of only 16 type one teams in the United States.   Firefighters at this level are assigned to the very worst wildfires in the country.

Pechota acknowledges his team for the award.  

Storm Hill Fire Closes Highways 16 & 385 Saturday Night

Apr 24, 2016
Jim Strain / South Dakota Division of Wildland Fire

The Storm Hill Fire kept crews busy this weekend in the Black Hills.    The fire is burning on about 193 acres near Hill City.  

It forced the closure of two major Black Hills highways for a few hours on Saturday night and into Sunday morning.  

Officials continue to warn drivers to watch for emergency vehicles around the three forks area on Highways 16 and 385.

Cyd Janssen  is with Great Plains Fire Information.   She says cooler temperatures and higher humidity are helping fire crews get the upper hand.  

The Cold Fire continues to burn in the Black Hills near Pringle. Holly Legge, public information officer trainee for Cold Fire information, joins Dakota Midday for an update on road closures, resource challenges, and the risk of today's high winds on fire containment. 

For access information updates, visit Great Plains Fire Information. SDPB News continues to monitor the situation and provide you with updates.

Winds And Warm Weather Push Cold Fire

Apr 3, 2016
Jerry Krueger / Black Hills National Forest

A wildfire burning in the Southern Black Hills has now consumed about 1,900 acres.

The Cold Fire was reported on Saturday afternoon about four miles east of the town of Pringle near Highway 87.   

 High winds, low humidity and warmer than average weather fanned the flames and forced a rapid spread.  

Officials say, early on the fire posed an imminent threat to one ranch but crews were able to save the structures from burning.   

Currently several roads are closed in the affected area.  

Wildfire Awareness Month Begins Amidst Drought

May 5, 2015

May is Wildfire Awareness Month and with much of the state in a drought officials are urging homeowners to prepare for fire.

SDPB’s Charles Michael Ray spoke with three different experts in three different locations. 

First, the history of fire in the Black Hills with a look at stands of pitch stumps that historically burned.

Then to a stand of pines on private land near a housing development that was recently thinned thanks to a state program attempting to reduce the wildfire danger.

Cold Brook Burn Jumps Lines To Become Wildfire

Apr 14, 2015
Great Plains Fire Information @GPFireInfo

The Cold Brook Fire at Wind Cave National Park has now burned about 6,500 acres.   

That number includes the 1,000 acre controlled burn ignited on Monday morning in the park.    

At about one o’clock Monday afternoon a gust of wind stirred up a dust devil that carried embers over the fire lines and into dry grasses.  Crews then lost control of the burn.

Today the Black Hills is under a Red Flag Warning, this means warmer temperatures and high winds that can fan the flames and make firefighting difficult.

Sheep Draw Fire Threatens Gas Wells

Mar 31, 2015
Great Plains Fire Information @GPFireInfo

A wildfire in the far Northwest part of the state has now charred more than six-thousand acres.   The Sheep Draw Fire is threatening some structures and natural gas wells in the area.

It could hit 80 degrees in parts of the state on Tuesday.    Officials continue to warn about the high fire danger in parts of the state with the unseasonably hot and dry weather.    


NRCS: Dust Storm Highlights Conservation Need

Mar 12, 2013

On Monday in Pierre the fire department responded to 911 calls reporting a prairie wildfire burning east of town.

But when fire crews arrived they didn’t find any flames, rather something else –SDPB’s Charles Michael Ray has more on today’s Dakota Digest.

If you’re a South Dakota resident–and you see what looks like a smoke plume rising off the prairie–your first inclination might be to hop in your pickup truck and go check it out.     That’s just what Rick Mallo did on Monday.

Winds Fan West River Wildfires and Force Evacuations

Oct 18, 2012

High winds are fanning wildfires around the Black Hills area. Crews have responded to sixteen reported fires since this morning.

The biggest, called the Fork Fire, is burning on about 100 acres near Custer and has forced the evacuation of a sub-division located on Renegade Pass Road.   The fire is zero percent contained.  A separate, but smaller fire is also threatening homes in the Custer area at the same time.  The North Pole Road near Custer is closed to general traffic from Highway 16 to the Custer Limestone Road.

Winds Blowing Down Power Lines, Sparking Fires

Oct 18, 2012

High winds are blowing down power lines and fanning wildfires around the Black Hills area.

Crews have responded to seven reported fires since midnight.

The wind has also caused  power outages  and loss of cell phone service in parts of the Black Hills.  

The National Weather Service in Rapid City recorded a wind gust of 78 miles per hour.   That’s above hurricane force.

Wildfire officials are asking the public to be very careful with machinery and anything that could cause sparks.   Beth Hermanson is a state fire information officer.

Thune Tours Fire Prone Area of Rapid City

Oct 9, 2012

Fire officials say now that cooler weather is here it’s a very good time for rural and suburban homeowners in South Dakota to prepare their property for wildfire.  Those pushing for wildfire preparation are getting some help from U.S. Senator John Thune.