USA — A prairie fire that has scorched 17,500 acres in Todd and Tripp counties ignited a stockpile of 22,000 tires near the Mission water treatment ponds, according to Beth Hermanson public information officer for the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team.
Although a series of thunderstorms swept through western South Dakota Thursday afternoon, a Red Flag warning will remain in effect for today as winds continue to sweep across the region, she said.
“We need to be extremely cautious right now,” Hermanson said. Dry prairie grasses will shed hard rainfall quickly. “If it rains for an hour, an hour later the grass is dry,” she said.
The Okreek Fire, which started Wednesday south of U.S. Highway 18, west of Winner was caused by people, Hermanson said. The fire covered an area 22 miles long, torching grasses, baled hay and cropland.
Only 98 of an estimated 300 firefighters who fought the blaze remained on the scene Thursday evening to monitor the perimeter of the fire and hot spots in wooded draws within the perimeter.
The hot, dry windy conditions sparked several fires across the Dakotas on Wednesday.
There were no immediate reports of any buildings burned, but there were injuries reported. A Kennebec firefighter who suffered smoke inhalation and minor burns battling a blaze in Lyman County on Wednesday was expected to be released from a Chamberlain hospital on Thursday, KGFX radio reported.
Two firefighters from Yankton were injured fighting a field fire just across the border in Nebraska’s Cedar County on Wednesday but were reported in good condition after receiving medical attention.
Lightning accompanying the Thursday afternoon storms ignited a stack of between 75 and 100 bales north of Quinn along the Big Foot Road. Wall firefighters also responded to a couple lightning caused grass fires in the Quinn area.
State Wildland Fire Suppression director Joe Lowe urged people to be careful when they are out in the forest or prairie. Smokers should remain in their vehicles or smoke inside buildings or in designated areas. Remember to park vehicles over bare soil.
“Any type of heat or a little spark and we’re off to the races,” Hermanson said. “With these wind events, it’s really scary.”