Skip to comments.Growing fire hits 700 acres, threatens Deadwood (Black Hills of South Dakota)
Posted on 06/29/2002 8:46:33 PM PDT by petuniasevan
Growing fire hits 700 acres, threatens Deadwood
By Journal Staff and AP
DEADWOOD -- A ridge-running forest fire burned Saturday on the edges of Deadwood, threatening but not entering the northern Black Hills gambling town.
Officials ordered residents, casino guests and others to evacuate Saturday afternoon. However, not every one complied in what residents said was chaos amid smoke and slurry bombers overhead.
There were no reports of injuries.
The timber fire was burning over more than 1,000 acres. An accurate size estimate was not available at 8:30 p.m., Beth Adam of the state Wildlands Fire Suppression Division said.
The fire's cause was not immediately known, although a lightning storm had passed through the area Friday night.
Temperatures in the region soared to 110 degrees Saturday. The relative humidity was 11 percent and northwest winds at 5-15 mph. Officials were nervous about a front expected to move through the area and increase the wind.
The fire started at 2 p.m. in the Grizzly Gulch area south of Lead. Moving eastward, the fire crossed Highway 385, eliminating one possible evacuation route.
The fire also forced the evacuation of a Lead mobile home park that abuts Deadwood city limits in the Highway 385-85 junction area called Strawberry Hill.
The area is a series of hills and gulches feeding into Deadwood. Flames crowned in trees behind Northern Hills General Hospital on Charles Street and at White Rocks above the historic Mount Moriah Cemetery.
Officials said a house and garage in Grizzly Gulch burned. Witnesses also said a house burned on Rodenhaus Street behind the hospital.
"It's really pretty chaotic up there right now," Steve Hasenorhl, assistant chief for administration with the state wildlands fire division, said in a telephone interview.
The fire was "torching some trees and traveling through the canyon," Adam said.
"It is just coming down the hills into parts of town, but we are stopping it at this time."
Fire crews could be seen slowly cruising the hilly residential areas above Charles Street.
Around 200 firefighters were on the scene by evening, with 200 more on the way and a top-ranked "Type 1" fire crew expected to arrive this morning.
Seven air tankers were dropping fire retardant loads, joined by a large military C-130 tanker.
People at the Terry Peak lookout could see the red-colored slurry loads dropped and flares of flame from treetops. Smoke from the fire could be seen 100 miles away. The huge smoke column was drifting over Bear Butte and the city of Sturgis.
The evacuation order was expanded east from Deadwood to the Boulder Canyon Country Club along Highway 14A as a precaution.
As people were being ushered from Deadwood, non-emergency traffic was being stopped from entering town. Traffic jams reportedly were hampering firefighting efforts. Civilian use of cell phones also was jamming communication systems.
First Gold Hotel general manager Brad Hemmah was among those stopped from entering Deadwood. He wanted to help his staff close the casino hotel, which normally runs nonstop.
"I was pleading for them to let me in and they just won't," he said.
Mineral Palace casino hotel worker Sheldon Johnson of Sturgis also was stopped at the Boulder Canyon barricade. He was trying to get into town to help a boss shut down operations.
"I hope it doesn't burn down Main Street. Hundreds of people will be without jobs," he said.
On Main Street, Franklin Hotel operator Bill Walsh smoked a cigar as he and an employee remained at the Main Street landmark. "The Franklin has never closed its doors," he said in explaining why he remained. He said the hotel was used by firefighters during Deadwood's 1959 fire. (See related story.)
Elsewhere downtown, traffic was reduced to loose dogs and officers checking that doors were locked.
Evacuees were sent to the Donald E. Young Sports and Fitness Center at Black Hills State University in Spearfish and to the former armory in Lead.
At 8 p.m. a Young Center employee said the building was "pretty full," with between 200 and 250 people keeping an eye on the news and their families.
Lead police said the Palace Express hotel and the Golden Hills Resort and Convention Center, both in Lead, also were spots where evacuees were headed, but employees at both places said they hadn't seen any evacuees come in.
Patients who were evacuated from Northern Hills General Hospital in Deadwood were taken to hospitals either in Spearfish or Sturgis, a spokesman for Rapid City Regional Hospital said Saturday evening. Family members seeking information about patients should call Regional Hospital at 719-1000.
Rapid City Journal subscribers in the evacuation area will have their Sunday newspapers available either at the Donald E. Young Center or the Northern Hills Journal office, both in Spearfish.
I just noticed that I'm wearing my Sturgis Rally 2000 t-shirt! Wotta coincidence, huh?
Even though I live in WI, these fires affect me personally (which is probably true for a lot of Eastern-living Freepers).
Here's to the firefighters/smokejumpers whose task is thankless at best and dangerous at all times...
Ya'll be safe!
OK, all kidding aside.....other than GOING there, which I can't do....any businesses you know of that we can "get behind"?????? You know what I'm trying to say, right?
Yes, Black Hills National Forest.
home to the Jasper Fire last year.
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