Looking back: Tuesday marks one year since the Schroeder Fire

RAPID CITY, S.D. — March 29, 2021 started out as a normal day in the Black Hills, but it didn’t last long.

“You know, the fire started early in the morning. The report, I believe, came in around nine in the morning,” recalls Jay Wickham, chief of operations for South Dakota Wildland Fire.

Ff Chris Drew On The Schroeder Road FireThe Schroeder Fire ignited just west of Rapid City, with its towering smoke column visible for miles.

“So the wind was blowing 40 miles-an-hour, so by the time our folks arrived on scene, the fire was already 10 acres and already moved two miles across the landscape,” Wickham says.

The shifting winds from a passing cold front made the initial attack difficult – and different.

“So you’re fighting a fire going one direction, and then you have to change and fight another fire another direction,” Wickham says. “We were just simply trying to protect lives…protect property.”

Wickham says so many of the largest fires in the last decade have been in the Southern Hills – away from town – so the publicity of Schroeder brought other challenges.

“It changes things,” Wickham adds. “We need to get the firefighters in, but we need to get the public out so that they’re safe.”

The fire burned 2,224 acres between Nemo Road and West Highway 44, ultimately destroying one home and an outbuilding, with no civilian injuries.

State Fire Meteorologist Dr. Darren Clabo says despite the rainfall and potential snowfall we received Tuesday, it’s not going to be enough going forward into fire season.

“I think we’re in for a long fire season,” Dr. Clabo says. “I’m not seeing any indications that we’re going to see any long term relief from this long period of drought that we’ve been seeing, and going in to fire seasons that are the summer months, I definitely think we’re going to be seeing a lot of wildfires.”

Hear from Dr. Clabo on fire weather conditions this year as opposed to last year:

Dr. Clabo says it’ll be increasingly important going forward that people take preventative measures to reduce the chance of starting a fire.

For NewsCenter1’s original coverage of the Schroeder Fire, CLICK HERE.

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