Perkins County ranchers picking up the pieces after Divide Fire

Several ranchers in Perkins County are recovering after an explosive grass fire left them stunned after almost losing everything, Ranchers saying without the courageous action of firefighters – it would have been everything.

Several ranchers in Perkins County are recovering after an explosive grass fire left them stunned after almost losing everything.

Without the courageous action of firefighters – it could have been everything.

Max Matthews is now looking at recovering from a grass fire that has destroyed part of his property and some of his flock of sheep.

“It’s a wonderful life, but it has its’ moments where it can be pretty harsh too.”

The divide fire raced through Perkins county the same day the Schroeder Fire started west of rapid city. The fast moving grass fire was fueled by high winds and critically dry conditions, burning almost 12,000 acres in a 3 day period. Drought has plagued ranchers and farmers in the region since last year, along with an increasingly difficult economic situation.

Matthews is now looking at recovering from a grass fire that has destroyed part of his property and some of his flock of sheep.

“This is kind of the first time I’ve been able to kind of think about ok what’s happening next because it gets pretty hectic there for three or four days,” Matthews explained. “A lot of things happening, a lot of decisions to make. Again, without all the help of the … it’s a little overwhelming and sometimes it can just make you want to sit down and bawl.”

Matthews wasn’t the one who experienced heavy losses.

Tom Brockel — a cattle rancher and neighbor of Matthews — is still surveying the damage but many cattle have left severely injured.

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Damage on Brockel’s property

“You know… it’s gunna take a while but…” Brockel trailed off as he looked over his ranch. Crews were continuing to mop up hot spots even as we interviewed – racing to action as another large spot fire popped up on Brockel’s land.

Despite losses, both Matthews and Brockel said it would have been much worse without quick, heroic action from firefighters.

“You think people would just run to get out of the way but boy not them guys, man, they just face it head on,” Brockel explained. “Hats off to those guys I mean, man they put their lives on the line you know and they just,….. pretty brave men.”

Matthews remembers how firefighters surrounded his house as the flames approached, expressing emotional gratitude that his house had been saved and that everything else is something that can be replaced over time.

“Because it came within 20 feet of my backyard. The wind was blowing right at it, they got it detoured around the house and it got my shop, yeah, but… which is only about 100 yards over there… they didn’t have enough force to keep that from burning but at least they kept my house from burning.”

The rural community has rallied around those who were affected, donating their time, energy and resources – everything from lending large expensive equipment to a well cooked meal.

A chance of rain Tuesday will significantly help mop-up operations and help ranchers focus on rebuilding.

Brockel expressed hope.

“God willing, we’ll get through it.”

Categories: Local News, Weather Daily