Myrtle’s Hot Flashes Get Out of Control

Now that life has somewhat resumed at our place after the Myrtle fire came through and I’ve hooked my computer back up, I can share pictures I took and give an account of how our family was affected by Myrtle. I did not have enough time to get photos of any “flames” or when we helped friends move their cattle but did have time to photograph some of the aftermath once things settle down at home. The Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team posted Myrtle fire pictures at http://photobucket.com/myrtlefire_public. Other Myrtle fire informaction can be found at www.inciweb.org.

 

Late Thursday afternoon my daughter and I had been helping a girlfriend prepare her cabin rentals. When we got to Custer, a huge plume of smoke was building to the south. After overhearing people saying the fire was between Pringle and Hot Springs (the vicinity of our home) I decided it was time to get home.

 

My husband and son had just finished baling a hayfield when the fire took off so our son dropped my husband off at the Pringle Fire Hall to jump in with some guys in a Pringle fire tender truck. Early evening a Forest Service official stopped at our house to verify that the spot that they were going to use as a helibase and base camp was our hayfield north of Pringle and a land use agreement was set in motion.

Myrtle from our barn looking southeast towards Wind Cave

Knowing from my Forest Service firefighting days that fires can be very erratic and change direction quickly as well as being aware that there’s a lot of fuel in the dry, mountain pine beetle damaged timber, I got important documents, photos, guns, and computers loaded in my car in case of last-minute emergency evacuation. At one point during the night my husband called to find out what the fire was doing at home. I got our horses corralled and parked a horse trailer close to load them if need be. My husband stayed with the Pringle Fire Department until about 11 p.m. before coming home, when it was announced over the fire radios that officials were going to start evacuation notices for residents along our highway.

 

The fire was directly east of our house and although we couldn’t see flames due to a steep ridge between us and the fire, the sky was an orange glow much of the night. We estimated the fire being 2-3 miles from our place but we did not evacuate. Several times the first night the fire had changed direction due to changing winds, making it difficult for crews to carry out a plan of attack on the fire.

Helibase looking east on our hayfield
Helibase looking southwest

 

Friday the fire got away from crews again due to changing winds. My husband hooked on a disc in case a fire line was needed around our place. We spent the rest of the day helping our neighbors and another ranch family move their cattle once they were notified their cattle had to be moved to the west side of the highway. Our cattle were all west of the highway already and we were lucky not to have to move them. Our son and a friend of his helped our neighbors move their cattle and my husband and I helped the other ranch family trail their cattle along the highway to our corrals where they shipped everything by semi to another location. Our daughter answered the phone which rang constantly and took messages.

We also loaded 1,000 gallons of water onto our flatbed trailer and had a generator and pump rigged up to spray water on any spot fires but fortunately, we never had to use it. There was a lot of smoke from Thursday through Saturday. We received a couple of rain showers over the weekend which helped slow the fire down dramatically and by Sunday, the winds were calm enough that it was 40% contained by Sunday night. At that time, it burned over 10,000 acres and many of the fire crews were sent home. The helibase on our hayfield had a total of 11 helicopters for use on the fire.

The following helitanker is from Helicopter Transport Services.

This bad boy can fill 2,600 gallons in less than 45 seconds in a mere 18 inches of water!

 

National Guard Helicopters

You’ll have to forgive me for taking so many helicopter pictures; being a former Black Hills Helitack crew person, I was excited to have so many helicopters on our property at once. It was a busy, somewhat harried weekend but thankfully no lives, structures, or livestock were taken by the fire. Thank you so much to everyone who prayed for rain, thought of us with concern, called to offer support or help, and checked in on us. We are very grateful to have such wonderful people in our lives in situations like these.

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About ranchwifeslant

Amy writes a humor column based on rural living and ranch life from the southern Black Hills of South Dakota. She and her husband raise their two kids on a fourth generation cow/calf operation near Pringle; the Elk Capital of South Dakota.
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