Ground blazes hit South Dakota fields as winds whip the areaGrass and harvest fires whipped by strong winds raged all across the Mitchell area Wednesday.
By: Ross Dolan, The Daily Republic
Grass and harvest fires whipped by strong winds raged all across the Mitchell area Wednesday.
The closest fires to Mitchell flared in fields belonging to the Rosedale Hutterite Colony southwest of Alexandria shortly after 6 p.m. Hanson County Emergency Management Director Kevin Kayser said the fires blackened about 50 to 60 acres of corn stubble up to a mile northeast of the intersection of 260th Street and 416th Avenue. No crops or buildings were lost.
Farther west, a fast-moving fire began in a field north of Reliance and worked its way northwest of Highway 47 toward Lower Brule.
Donna Falcon, an employee at Hieb’s Cenex at Reliance, said she drove by the fire on her way to work.
“It was huge,” she said, noting that it moved into the hills and valleys leading to the breaks near the Missouri River.
Crews also were fighting fires Wednesday evening in Tripp County, where large fires broke out along the Todd and Mellette County lines south of Carter.
Douglas County Sheriff Troy Strid said field fires were also reported near Armour and Corsica on Wednesday.
Kayser said Rosedale Colony work crews were planting winter wheat on harvested ground when the fires there started and quickly spread.
Brush rigs and tankers were quickly called in from the Millbrook Colony, Alexandria and Mitchell. The fire was under control by 7:30 p.m.
Farm worker David Mutziger, of Mitchell, was working to the north when he saw the smoke.
“The corn stalks were going pretty good,” Mutziger said. Equally effective at shutting down the flames, he said, were disc harrows used by colony crews to blacken the earth and to work the waste stubble into the fields, depriving the fires of fuel.
“When it’s this dry,” Hanson County Sheriff Randy Bartlett said, “all it takes is a spark. It’s powder dry. You get a spark and sometimes it ignites the dust.”
Farmers try to dissipate the static electricity that causes the dangerous sparks by sometimes dragging chains behind their equipment, he said.
The situation could get worse before it gets better. Rain is predicted for the weekend and farmers will be working overtime to beat the weather, Bartlett said.
Elsewhere around the state, at least one house was evacuated in Potter County because of a grass fire.
Another fire near Mound City in Campbell County traveled about seven miles.
Grass fires in Spink and Walworth counties were under control.
Information on damage or acres burned has not been released.
At least two fires, one from the north and one from the south, were pushing smoke and smell into the Pierre-Fort Pierre area.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Ross Dolan/Republic A volunteer from the Millbook Hutterite colony hoses down fire-blackened fields beside 260th Street on Wednesday evening.