A timeline of the Auburn Fire
RAPID CITY, S.D. — The call came in at approximately 1:49 p.m. Monday afternoon for a grass fire located four miles north of Rapid City.
The fire started off of Henderson Drive, west of Haines Avenue. According to the manager of Edgewood Estates, located west of Haines Avenue, the fire started small but quickly took off within 15 to 20 minutes. South to southeasterly winds moving 20-25 miles per hour had pushed the fire north, setting fire to canopies and trees.
Nearly an hour later, at 2:35 p.m., the western edge of Kimberly Circle had been evacuated and closed to the public while mandatory evacuations were declared for the area that is east of Deadwood Avenue and north of Interstate 90.
Multiple sources urged the public to use the PennCo Public Safety Hub as a resource as to which areas were restricted, which areas were evacuated and which areas were in pre-evacuation status.
Efforts were hindered with onlookers blocking the way. Officials from Rapid City Fire Department, Rapid City Police Department and Pennington County Sheriff’s Office asked the public to please stay home unless you were being evacuated.
“We have run into some issues with those onlookers, causing trouble getting access to certain areas,” said Public Information Officer for the RCPD Brendyn Medina. “They are congesting the roadways we’re needing access to, get water to, get first responders to. So, really, the biggest plea we are asking right now is that if you have no business to be out here, assisting with the fire, if you’re only out here to look, we want you to stay away from this fire.”
Around 3:09 p.m., air resources had arrived to the scene to assist with the fire from above.
By 4:07 p.m., the Great Plains Fire Information had updated that the now-named Auburn Fire had burned approximately 100 acres west of Haines Avenue.
At 5:03 p.m., PCSO announced on Twitter that the Marvel Mountain area had been evacuated while the area between Deadwood Avenue to Erickson Ranch Road and Haines Avenue to Elk Creek Road was in pre-evacuation. The fire had burned 250-300 acres with zero percent contained by this time.
“For ground accessibility, there are paved roads for our engines to actually get up on the hill, which is great. So, they are able to access the fire pretty easily,” said Tessa Jaeger, the Public Information Officer for RCFD. “We do have all of those different types of engines up there fighting the fire at this point.”
Crews continued to work through the Monday night with the objective to construct and strengthen direct and indirect containment lines to maintain a presence near structures.
According to multiple sources, the Auburn Fire would likely be a long-term fire, lasting for two to four days. If the fire line were to jump, southwesterly winds would likely push the fire in western Meade County where there are less roads but plenty of open grassland.
Overnight, the Auburn Fire had grown to 500-750 acres but was 25 percent contained by Tuesday morning. Crews, taking advantage of weather conditions, were successful in conducting burn-out operations and securing the fire line.
Tuesday, October 5, 2021
South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem and Public Safety Secretary Craig Price arrived in Rapid City to meet with firefighters and received a briefing from Incident Commander Tim Daly of South Dakota Wildland Fire. Daly said as of Tuesday morning, no structures or livestock had been lost.
“We were able to complete burn-outs along the line to to help secure that fuel in between the fire edge and our indirect dozer lines,” said Daly. “And as of this morning we’re at 25 percent containment.”
At 12:45 p.m., the Great Plains Fire Info used a Multi-Mission Aircraft (MMA) to determine the perimeter and updated the size to 964 acres. The southern portion of the fire was being mopped up while firefighters continued to extinguish hot spots. Meanwhile, a small burn-out operation was taking place in the northern and western portions of the fire.
Winds were still coming from the south and southeast, and presented a challenge for the firefighters. Fire managers continued to shift resources around appropriately to work to secure the line.
Around 3:00 p.m., PCSO and Meade County Sheriff’s Office had announced that all fire evacuations, pre-evacuations, and road closures will be lifted at 6:00 p.m. if conditions remained the same. The areas would be restricted to residents only as there were still emergency vehicles and equipment working in the area.
By 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, the Auburn Fire was at 50 percent containment. Crews continued to work overnight to maintain a presence in the area to monitor structures, reinforce containment areas and extinguish hot spots.
Wednesday, October 6, 2021 —
Overnight, fire behavior was described as “active.” Crews continued to extinguish hot-spots, reinforce containment lines, and repair dozer lines.
An aerial observation aircraft flew over the fire and determined that there were no hot-spots outside the fire’s perimeter. Other air assets remained available if needed.
Great Plains Fire Information announced on Wednesday that the cause of the Auburn Fire is accidental due to a mechanical failure of earth-moving equipment. The equipment had been sitting in a field and had not been operated for a long period of time.
Fire crews continued to fight the Auburn Fire north of Rapid City though out the day. It was still listed as 974 acres in size and 50-percent contained.
In an early Wednesday afternoon update, South Dakota Wildland Fire said south-easterly winds were causing flare-ups within the fire perimeter. A Red Flag Warning due to hot, dry and windy conditions was in effect from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and was a cause of concern for the firefighters.
There were still pockets of unburned fuel within the perimeter that continue to ignite. Residents were expected to see an orange glow or flames after dark.
Wednesday nights operational shift focused on an extensive mop up operation to reinforce containment lines. Lucky for the firefighters, no spot fires emerged and the containment lines held through out the day, despite the Red Flag Warning.
Officials hope that this would be the last night for a night operational shift unless fire conditions change considerably. A rehab plan was in place which included rehabbing and seeding dozer lines, fixing fences that were cut during firefighting operations, and fixing roads and trails that firefighting equipment may have damages.