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A Mitchell Rural Fire Association crew stands by ready to assist the Alexandria Fire Department during a combine fire about 5 miles east of Mitchell Sunday afternoon. (Tom Lawrence/Republic)

Hot, dry conditions spark harvest fires

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Hot, dry conditions spark harvest fires
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

It's a recipe for fire: Hot weather, dry conditions and warm engines.

Heated combines sparked fields during harvest efforts this weekend, causing several fires, according to local agencies.


There was also a grass fire in Mitchell Sunday and more may be ahead with the dry, hot conditions slated for this week.

Calls to area sheriffs' offices Sunday found three combine fires by Parkston, two in Douglas County, one near Pukwana and another near Geddes.

At 3 p.m. Sunday, another such blaze erupted in a field about 5 miles east of Mitchell along state Highway 38.

Corey Degan was wrapping up the soybean harvest on the field south of the highway when the fire started by his combine, according to his father, Charlie Degen.

"It didn't take it too long to get going," Charlie Degen said as he watched the Alexandria Fire Department work to extinguish the fire.

He said 5 to 6 acres of beans were damaged by the blaze and some stubble was scorched as well.

The Alexandria firefighters had the fire under control within a half hour as a Mitchell Rural Fire Department tanker stood by prepared to offer assistance.

The fire sent smoke pouring across the state highway, obscuring the view for drivers for a few minutes.

Several vehicles stopped as people took a close look at the harvest fire.

In the field, Charlie Degen and some neighbors sipped cold beers on the warm afternoon as they watched the smoke diminish and the fire get soaked down. The neighbors kidded him about the fire drying out the beans and made other humorous remarks while Degen smiled and said he was glad no one was hurt.

His son took the combine back to his farm. There was no immediate estimate on the damage to the machine.

Shortly after that fire was under control, Mitchell firefighters were called to a grass fire at 900 W. Second Ave.

Jay Hansen, who lives in the trailer court there, said a neighbor alerted him to the fire on a small ridge in a vacant lot.

Hansen threw buckets of water at the fire in an attempt to slow it down before it reached any homes.

A pair of Mitchell firefighters soon brought a grass rig to the address and quickly soaked the ground and extinguished the fire.

With temperatures forecast to be in the 80s this week and the dry conditions, more fires are possible, said firefighter and EMT Doug Glover.

"Could well be," Glover said. "It's going to be a good chance of it."

Mitchell firefighter and EMT Dan Pollreisz, who is also the Ethan fire chief, said there have been three field fires in the Ethan area in the past week. All were harvestrelated, Pollreisz said.

"It could be a bearing gets hot or a rock is hit and sparks the fire in the field," he said.