Controlled burn leads to field, shelterbelt fire

No injuries, structure damage reported in Wednesday afternoon blaze

The Mitchell Fire Department, with assistance from the Mount Vernon Fire Department, work to put out a grass fire along the east of 407th Avenue south of Lake Mitchell and a mile north of Cemetery Road on Wednesday afternoon in Mitchell. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Matt Gade

A controlled burn Wednesday led to a fire in a harvested field and a shelterbelt in Mitchell.

Capt. Ben VandenHoek, with the Mitchell Fire Department, said the department was contacted at 12:27 p.m. and arrived on the scene, located at 250088 407th Ave., a few minutes later. He said the fire, which started from a controlled burn, burned a small parcel of land but produced no notable damage and no injuries to responders or area residents.

He said the area of the fire was small, but it took some work to make sure it was knocked down.

“We’re going to estimate it was about 1.5 acres. It wasn’t large in size, but it was labor intensive due to the shelterbelt and the trees,” VandenHoek said.

The fire got out of control after the winds picked up Wednesday afternoon, he said. Combined with the generally dry conditions the fire crept into the shelterbelt, he said.


“It was a controlled burn that got a little out of hand when the wind picked up. It can be very unpredictable and it’s a lot dryer than people anticipate,” VandenHoek said.

He said there was no estimate on the value losses, as damage was limited to the field, which was already harvested and the shelterbelt, in which mostly already-dead trees were burned. No structures were damaged or were in danger of being burned, he said.

Though the fire was put out quickly, the Mitchell Fire Department was on scene for about an hour and 45 minutes taking care of the blaze to make sure it did not flare up again. The department had three trucks on site as well as a truck from Mount Vernon that was assisting on a mutual aid call.

VandenHoek advised people to use caution when it comes to fire as summer moves into fall. Conditions can change quickly and even a well-tended fire can become a problem in short order.

The earlier the department can respond to a fire, the better, he said.

“Use caution and keep an eye on it, and if conditions change, they have to be up on that observance. And don’t be afraid to call 911 early in the situation if it does get out of hand,” VandenHoek said.


Related Topics: FIRES
Erik Kaufman joined the Mitchell Republic in July of 2019 as an education and features reporter. He grew up in Freeman, S.D., graduating from Freeman High School. He graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1999 with a major in English and a minor in computer science. He can be reached at
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