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Controlled burn becomes out of control in Tabor

TABOR -- The cedars of Lebanon may have been a gift fit for King Solomon, but for some South Dakota landowners, the plants are mostly a nuisance.

That’s why members of Bon Homme Colony were trying to clear out some of those cedars with a controlled burn on Friday, according to Tabor Volunteer Fire Chief Ken Carda.

“They’re getting fairly well overgrown with cedar trees,” Carda said of the area near the Missouri River. “They need to clear them off so the cattle have more area to graze.”

The controlled fire, however, soon spread, and became out of control. It moved across nearly 1,000 acres of land on the southwestern side of Bon Homme county. Despite covering approximately two square miles, the blaze was contained to pasture land, and resulted in no injuries and no structure damages, authorities said.

Rob Lehmann, assistant chief with South Dakota Wildland Fire Division, said the controlled burn started early Friday afternoon about six miles south of Tabor on Bon Homme Colony pasture land. Carda said he was called to help around 4:30 p.m. Friday when they suspected the fire could spread.

“After that, it was full-blown out of our control on Friday,” he said. “Friday night it took quite a few people to get it under control.”

He said area volunteer fire departments from Tabor, Tyndall, Scotland and Lesterville offered mutual aid, and along with assistance from colony members were able to contain the blaze. Around 10 p.m., however, Lehmann said the local firefighters requested assistance from South Dakota Wildland Fire Division because of the rough terrain. Much of the area -- mostly used as grazing land for livestock -- is steep and rugged, and covered with cedar trees.

“When you get into some of those wildland fires, it’s very steep terrain and you cannot get vehicles to a lot of that. There are some places you could hardly walk to,” Carda said. “That’s why we were not able to handle it ourselves.”

Lehmann said South Dakota Wildland Fire Division, which is based in Rapid City, brought five fire engines, under contract from East River fire departments, and a Department of Corrections hand crew to assist. The fire was contained, but not fully extinguished when they arrived. Firefighters and colony members kept a close eye on the area Friday night to Saturday morning, Carda said.

Lehmann and Carda said two structures on a single property were threatened during the blaze, but the local firefighters were able to protect them. The fire did not jump across any roadways, Carda noted, but did cross a few fence lines, spreading slightly onto the private property of two individuals.

He said a firefighters were called back to the scene late Friday with a flare up, and made it back to the fire hall around 4:30 Saturday morning. The Wildland Fire Division arrived mid-morning Saturday.

By Saturday evening, Lehmann said the fire had been extinguished, but noted there were areas within the fire line that were still smoky. Assisted by some light showers in the area Sunday morning, Carda said the fire was considered completely extinguished by Sunday afternoon, but colony members continued to monitor one smoky area.