Fire near Edgemont fire slows, but toll includes tanker crashEDGEMONT (AP) — An overnight thunderstorm slowed the advance of a wildfire in southwest South Dakota, bringing a moment of respite just hours after an air tanker fighting the blaze crashed with six people aboard.
EDGEMONT (AP) — An overnight thunderstorm slowed the advance of a wildfire in southwest South Dakota, bringing a moment of respite just hours after an air tanker fighting the blaze crashed with six people aboard.
The White Draw Fire on Monday was holding steady at about 6½ square miles, about 30 percent contained, fire spokesman Brian Scott said. The storm didn't bring much rain but high humidity caused grasses to burn slower, and fire activity was "really subdued," he said.
No people or livestock had been harmed by the fire that was sparked by a vehicle Friday afternoon in the Edgemont area, about 80 miles southwest of Rapid City. However, an Air Force C-130 plane crashed while fighting the fire on Sunday.
David Eaker of the Great Basin Incident Management Team said six people were aboard, but no other information was immediately released. Capt. Ruth Castro, a spokeswoman for U.S. Northern Command at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado, said the plane had been flying from that base. An Air National Guard official in North Carolina said the plane's home base was Charlotte.
Three people were retrieved from the wreckage and taken to a Rapid City hospital, the Fall River County Sheriff's Office told the Rapid City Journal. Calls to the sheriff's office Monday morning were referred to Northern Command, which did not comment on the report.
A U.S. Forest Service official in Colorado offered sympathy to the crew members' families.
"We grieve your loss," said Jerri Marr, supervisor of the Pike and San Isabel National Forests, where some C-130s were fighting a wildfire last week. She did not elaborate.
Eight Air Force C-130s can be equipped to drop water or fire retardant. They're flown by Air Force National Guard units at Port Hueneme, Calif.; Charlotte, N.C.; and Cheyenne, Wyo.; and a Reserve unit in Colorado Springs, Colo.
All eight had been dispatched to Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs last week to fight Colorado wildfires. The C-130 can drop 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant in less than five seconds, covering an area one-quarter of a mile long by 100 feet wide, and can be refilled in less than 12 minutes, according to the Defense Department.
Castro said the tanker on the White Draw Fire made at least two drops of retardant Sunday before crashing at about 6 p.m.
The fire was burning mainly on U.S. Forest Service land although residents of five homes in the area were given voluntary evacuation orders over the weekend.
Steep terrain, rattlesnakes and hot, dry weather challenged the 181 people battling the fire. The National Weather Service has forecast temperatures in the 90s through the end of the week.
Frank Maynard, Fall River County's emergency management director, described the terrain as "very, very rugged, straight up and straight down cliffs."
"You could take a vehicle in there if you wanted to get rid of the vehicle when you're done," he said.
Maynard referred questions about the crash to Northern Command. He said he was focused on firefighting, trying to knock down a couple of hundred-acre fires ignited by lightning strikes from Sunday's thunderstorm.
"We are bone dry," he said. "We get anything that is an ignition source and we've got off-and-running fires."
Scott said ranchers with cattle close to the fire perimeter had moved them out of harm's way, but "it's really sad, the grass resources being lost out there."
"We're doing everything we can to limit that loss of grass," he said. "That's critical to ranchers out there."