Wind gusts of more than 60 miles per hour are fueling the Fork Fire that's burning just a couple miles west of Custer and around two dozen homes have been evacuated in the Danby Park area.
The dry conditions throughout the Black Hills make fighting almost any fire a challenge. But Thursday's extreme winds are making the fight even more daunting. More than a dozen crews from around the region are battling the Fork Fire.
"The calls came in right around six this [Thursday] morning. The fire was burning up into the timber, now it's made its way out into the grassland here," Sgt. Stephen McMillin from the Custer County Sheriff's Office said.
Our meteorologists have recorded wind gusts at speeds higher than 50 miles per hour in the Custer area. But officials on the ground suspect the gusts were even stronger.
"We have no way of really estimating what the wind was up here. But I would say that around 6:30, 7:00 [Thursday morning] that it was definitely in the 60 miles per hour plus range," Custer County Emergency Services Director Mike Carter said.
The weather is making for a very volatile situation and about two dozen homes have been evacuated in the area.
"We did some evacuation orders out in the valley off of Renegade Pass and off of North Pole Road just to kind of give them a heads up and let them know that they need to get out of here," McMillin said.
So far, just one outbuilding has been lost to the flames. Crews are laying down dozer lines and back burning to protect homes should the winds shift.
"That's why they've taken some of the suppression tactics of taking some of the black line that you see around here, so when the fire does blow back it doesn't have any fuel to continue on that way," Carter said.
But that's about all crews can do until Mother Nature decides to cooperate.
"I think the forecast is for the wind to die down. Obviously, if it does it's going to allow the people who are out there on the line to get a little better handle on it," Carter said.
Typically, on a fire like this one could expect to see the flames being attacked from the air. But the strong winds have grounding the firefighters air support, adding to the task of those on the ground.
The Fork Fire is estimated to be 100-150 acres and is 0% contained.
Another fire burning about three miles southeast of Custer, the Glenn Erin fire is between ten and 30 acres and is reported to be five percent contained.