Wildland fire near Wanblee, SD 78 percent contained

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WANBLEE, S.D. - The latest on the Wanblee Timber Fire, burning between Wanblee and Kadoka, S.D.

Courtesy: Pennington County Fire 

July 20

As of Wednesday evening, the Wanblee fire was 78 percent contained, still at 5,305 acres. Personnel on scene shrunk to 173.

On day five of the fire, there are still concerns of high temperatures, winds, and thunderstorms. Crews are still working to protect sensitive habitats and cultural resources by limiting fire suppression activity.


July 19

The Wanblee Timber Fire burning a few miles west of Wanblee, S.D. is at 50 percent containment. The acreage is now at 5,305.

Photo Courtesy

A heat advisory is in effect Wednesday with temperatures forecasted to reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit. And there's still the potential for rapid fire growth, according to the Rocky Mountain Type 2 Incident Management Team in charge of the fire. The team has factored in relative humidity, sustained winds, and low fuel moistures.

In addition, open burning is prohibited Wednesday in Pennington County.

The fire continues to burn among natural barriers and against the northern perimeter. Crews are still checking along Highway 73 to address hot spots. Two structures have been destroyed since the start of the fire. 

Air resources continue to support firefighters as necessary, and some resources are returning home.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

READ MORE: I-90 exit in Spearfish closing for 6 nights


July 18, 9:15 p.m.

The fire is now burning an estimated 5,300 acres.


4:45 p.m.

With more firefighters on scene Tuesday, crews seem to be making steady progress on containing the Wanblee Timber Fire.

A Rocky Mountain Type 2 Incident Management Team took command of the fire Tuesday morning. No air assets were used, but Public Information Officer Brett Haberstick said crews focused on the northern edge of the fire, as well as the entire fire perimeter.

On the north end, firefighters focused on an edge burning into Badlands National Park. Other crews focused on mop-up duty and strengthening the fire lines to hold containment.

Haberstick said the night shift conducted more burnout operations to remove fuel between the fire and the containment lines - and that proved to be successful.


July 17, 9:20 p.m.

While the fire is still estimated to span 5,000 acres, fire officials tell NewsCenter1 it is now at 50 percent containment, and the community of Georgetown is no longer threatened.

Pennington County Fire Administrator Jerome Harvey said containment efforts were strongly supported by air resources used heavily Monday. Additionally, hand crews were able to conduct burnout operations to eliminate potential fuel between the constructed fire line and current fire's location.

Still, the Type 3 Incident Management Team is keeping a close watch on severe thunderstorms near the fire, as a lightning strike could lead to more active fire behavior.

Harvey said a Rocky Mountain Type 2 Incident Management Team is set to take command of the fire Tuesday morning.


4:45 p.m.

The fire now spans 5,000 acres, threatening the community of Georgetown.


3:30 p.m.

Current assets attacking the fire include: two single-engine air tankers (SEAT), 1 heavy air tanker, a Chinook helicopter, a handcrew from Bear Mountain, 30 engines, 15 tenders, Oglala Sioux Tribe Emergency Management, Pine Ridge Bureau of Indian Affairs Fire Management, South Dakota Highway Patrol, Jackson County Sheriff's Office, South Dakota Department of Transportation, numerous volunteer fire departments, and local ranchers.


3 p.m.

More than a dozen structures are threatened by the Wanblee Fire. Active air tankers and other resources continue attacking the flames, but they're dealing with switching wind patterns. 

The fire's estimated size is now between 3,500 and 4,000 acres in size and growing on steep, inaccessible terrain. The fire remains at zero containment.

A Type 2 incident management team will take control of the fire Monday night, showing that the fire continues to pose a dangerous threat to the public. Fires range in seriousness between Type 1 and Type 4, with 1 being the most serious.


2 p.m.

Incident Commander for the Wanblee Timber Fire, Cliff McClure, confirmed that a garage was burned Sunday night and declared a total loss. 

McClure said water and power line systems are being threatened along Highway 73.

Firefighters are still battling rough terrain and extreme heat as they work to contain the fire.

"We're in really heavy timber with a heavy drought," McClure said. "And we have an area with high, hot temps."


Courtesy: Pennington County Fire 

11 a.m.

Highway 73 between Kadoka and the junction of 44 to Wanblee is back open.


10 a.m.

The fire has burned around 3,000 acres with zero percent containment. Highway 73 between Kadoka and the junction of 44 to Wanblee remains closed. Houses in the area are in danger of being burned.


July 16, 10:37 p.m.

As winds continue to push flames northward, firefighters are closing Highway 73 from the intersection with Highway 44 north to Interstate 90.


9:15 p.m.

The fire has grown to more than 3,000 acres. The communities of George Town and Wanblee are not currently threatened. Additional handcrews and bulldozers are on order and en route.

A large growing wildland fire about six and half miles east of Wanblee, S.D. has burned more than 300 acres as of 8 p.m. Sunday and is at zero percent containment. Due to the speed with which the fire is spreading, officials say they cannot currently give an accurate size.

Drought-stressed vegetation is contributing to the growth of the fire. Two single-engine air tankers, one air observer, two road maintainers, nine tenders, and 25 brush trucks are on scene. At least one structure has burned, and livestock, ranch assets, and a water system are threatened.

The fire is currently under the unified command of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and other local agencies.

Crews are asking the public to stay out of the area. Their priorities, they say, are containment of the fire and protecting the structures and ranch assets.

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