CUSTER, SD -
Crews in the Black Hills have partially contained a fire six miles southeast of Custer that's scorched more than 500 acres.
Wildfires aren't unusual in the Black Hills. But when they happen in March that's a different story.
"This is the earliest that we've had a lightning-caused fire, and this is one of the largest fires that we've had this early in March," Hell Canyon District Ranger Lynn Kolund said.
The Apple Fire has burned more than 500 acres of land and is stretching area resources to their limit.
"We're pretty short right now with hand crews and with engines. Most of those haven't been mobilized yet it's so early in the season," Kolund said.
With so much dry fuel and ever-shifting winds, the best way to fight a fire like this is to get in front of it and start a fire of your own.
"We will burn out those unburned areas to make sure that our lines are secure," Kolund said.
And with no structures currently at risk, the fire is actually healthy for the land and may make firefighters' lives easier later in the season.
"By reducing the fuel loading on the ground, it will help us in the future as the fire season, which is looking like it could be a long fire season, continues," Kolund said.
About 15 percent of the fire is contained. No one has been hurt.
State, local and volunteer fire crews on the ground have gotten some help from air tankers, helicopters and an Air Attack plane.
© 2012 KELOLAND TV. All Rights Reserved.