SD ranchers seek better wildfire communicationRanchers in the Edgemont area said Friday they’d like better communication with interagency wildfire officials when crews fight the blazes in South Dakota’s Black Hills.
By: DIRK LAMMERS, The Associated Press
Ranchers in the Edgemont area said Friday they’d like better communication with interagency wildfire officials when crews fight the blazes in South Dakota’s Black Hills.
Sen. John Thune visited with firefighters and ranchers Friday in the corner of southwest South Dakota, where a blaze scorched nearly 14 square miles of grasslands and timber, primarily on National Forest lands.
Some ranchers said interagency officials ignored local expertise that could have helped crews battle the fire.
“They feel like they have a lot of know-how,” said Thune, R-S.D. “They’ve in many cases lived in the area for generations and understand the terrain.”
But, Thune said, fire crews should be commended for battling such a large blaze without loss of life or significant property.
“It doesn’t happen by accident,” the senator said. “It happens because of the hard work and courage of a lot of people at the local, state and federal level.”
More than 400 firefighters have battled the White Draw Fire. On Sunday, a C-130 air tanker crashed, killing four of the six crew members from a North Carolina National Guard unit.
The fire is now 95 percent contained, and mop-up efforts have been aided by heavy overnight rainfall in the area.
Edgemont rancher Mark Hollenbeck said locals at the fire’s onset tried to tell crews where roads were, and officials responded that there weren’t roads there because they weren’t on their maps. Hollenbeck said officials were planning to get ambulances out of Custer and didn’t know the much closer town of Edgemont had ambulances.