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Ranchers Unhappy With Fire Efforts

July 3, 2012, 5:08 PM by David Brown

Ranchers Unhappy With Fire Efforts
EDGEMONT, SD -

As crews continue to battle the nearly 5,000 acre White Draw Fire near Edgemont, some ranchers in the area aren't happy with how the situation's been handled.

The good news about the fire is that it's now 50% contained. There are more personnel in the area and the efforts have been increased. But the bad news is that property owners around the fire believe those in charge haven't listened well enough. And they're concerned more land may be in danger.

Where there's smoke, there are usually not cows.  But one herd is close to some dangerous territory.

"When the fire gets on private land, the local fire chiefs need to be in charge, not the federal government or state agencies because they know the terrain," Wayne Childers said.

Childers is a former fire chief in Edgemont who lives by the western perimeter of the blaze. He understands it's difficult for federal agencies to assess a local fire but that simply talking would make things easier.

"There needs to be better communication between the local fire chiefs, the state forestry and the feds," Childers said.

"I think the communication's been pretty good," US Forest Service Natural Resource Officer Dave Mertz said.

Mertz understands ranchers are concerned but says there are coordinated efforts both on the ground and in the air.

"We've been meeting with them on a regular basis and trying to resolve their concerns," Mertz said.

"Some are supportive, some aren't as supportive," Public Information Officer Brian Scott said. "You'll have that in any type of incident but we're out talking to them."

And while the White Draw Fire continues to burn, additional fuel is being added to a very different type of battle.

"I think there's some real problems with the federal government," Childers said. "

"We've got a really good system in place to work together and things are working very well," Mertz said.

Wayne Childers and his family believe homes to the north are in danger. They're beyond a barricade, so we can't get back there. But with dry conditions, low humidity and high heat, everyone's going to have to work together now to combat the fire.

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