Prescribed burn gets out of control
DICKINSON, N.D. -- Ranchers south of Hettinger, N.D., and Lemmon, S.D., are wondering what they're supposed to do for grazing lands after what was intended to be a prescribed burn in the Grand River National Grasslands got out of control.
The fire scorched more than 14,000 acres of federal and private land over 22 square miles Wednesday and Thursday in Perkins County in northwest South Dakota.
The U.S. Forest Service said it was intending to burn 130 acres of dead crested wheatgrass when the fire broke containment areas and spread throughout the national grasslands and privately owned lands because of dry and windy conditions.
Grand River District Ranger Paul Hancock said the Forest Service determined weather conditions were within the prescription for a controlled burn, but winds picked up as the area being burned was about to be extinguished.
"We're ordering a team to investigate," Hancock said Thursday as the fire continued to burn. "That's going to provide us more details. At the moment, what we know is the ignition for the prescribed burn was coming to an end. We had spot weather forecasts on site and they were calling for winds within the prescription. Winds did pick up right at the end of ignitions. It took it (the fire) east up a draw and we were chasing it from there."
Forest Service officials estimated the blaze to be 75 percent contained as of Thursday night.
"We're expecting full containment tomorrow afternoon," said Babete Anderson, the public affairs officer for the U.S. Forest Service's Grand River District Office.
With land burned as far as the eye can see in some places, area ranchers are asking why the burn happened in the first place while others are more concerned about their livelihoods.
"Everything is burnt," Laurie Casper said. "It's unbelievable."