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October 06, 2011 05:57 PM

Help Called In To Fight Okreek Fire

mission, sd


Grassfires are burning across KELOLAND and they are keeping firefighters busy.

The largest is the Okreek fire, which started near the Tripp and Todd County line Wednesday. It's now burned more than 15,000 acres and more help is on the way to keep the flames from spreading.

By the time our cameras got to the Okreek fire Wednesday night at 7 o'clock, it had been burning for more than six hours. The wind, which had gusts stronger than 50 miles per hour, pushed the fire along at a rapid pace.

"At least 20 miles per hour, at least. Maybe 20, 30. It was moving pretty fast. In the short grass, it wasn't moving too fast but as soon as it reached anything above three feet, it was moving," fire operations specialist Bob Oliver said.

The best way to contain a wildfire is to burn a perimeter around it, cutting off access to more fuel. It is something that became difficult to do as the width of the
fire stretched to 26 miles.

"So we had to pull out and reassess our situation so we had to flank it. That's all we could do is just chase it because the winds were so high," Oliver said.

That's when the Rocky Mountain Incident Team was mobilized. Though some of the team members are stationed in the Black Hills, others traveled from as far away as California.

"When they're just basically strapped, they can't do anymore and their resources are just wore out, we come in and help," incident safety officer LaVerne Hermanson said.

Hermanson is the incident safety officer for the fire. Whenever his team arrives on the ground, they address three basic questions.

"What happened, what is presently going on, and what their expectations are when we come to help," Hermanson said.

Team members began arriving in Mission around midnight and by dawn, a strong perimeter was set From there, they primarily focused on a process called "mop up," taking care of any hot spots or flare-ups. It's a process that can take awhile.

"We'll be here a week, maybe more, before we get everything mopped up and secured," Hermanson said.

But regardless on how long it takes to finish, they'll stick around.

"If we've met the goals that were given to us, the job is done," Hermanson said.

Done until the next time the team is called upon anywhere in the country.

No buildings have been damaged and no injuries have been reported so far.
  • Mission, SD
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