Crews across South Dakota, North Dakota came together to battle 20,000-acre grass fire

South Dakota News

PERKINS COUNTY, S.D. (KELO) — There was a combined effort to stop a huge grass fire officially called The Windy Fire from spreading near Lemmon, South Dakota.

High winds spread the fire which is estimated at about 20 thousand acres. With no snow cover and driven by high winds gusting up to 56 miles an hour, the grass fire was almost 20 miles long.

It started Thursday afternoon. The flames raced across 19 ranches. No one was hurt, and no homes were damaged, but some ranch buildings were lost.

“The height of the flame was probably 25 to 30 feet,” said Lemmon Fire Marshal, Shane Penfield.

Penfield says people in Lemmon could see the eerie glow of the fire about ten miles away.

People living west and southeast of Lemmon were told to prepare to evacuate in case the wind shifted, but the order never came.

The Fire Marshall credits a chief with experience in working large fires and a lot of help from surrounding towns and agencies. Crews from as far away as Mobridge, a hundred miles, Flasher, North Dakota, 80 miles, and almost two dozens communities in between also sent help.

“It was absolutely a team effort,” said Penfield.

Penfield also says dozens of people who are not firefighters pitched in.

“Whether that’s the agronomy program at the elevator that had a semi running, the concrete plant here in town had the cement trucks running all over the place with water last night, farmers and ranchers they brought in equipment that we needed. Farmers hooked on to implements they started making firebreaks,” said Penfield.

Penfield says crews continued to look for hotspots, especially in wooded areas like shelterbelts and smoldering hay bales. Overall tonight he feels things are, in his words “in a good way.”

Two firefighters were hurt, both have been discharged from the hospital, one with significant injury and other unknown.

The Lemmon Chamber of Commerce is organizing help for those impacted by the fire.
They are trying to assist with hay supply, burned fences, and even help to get kids to school or daycare.

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