Fire conditions ‘worst ever’
Published: Thursday, July 12th, 2012
Custer County emergency management director Mike Carter didn’t pull any punches when describing the current fire danger to the Custer County Commission at the commission’s July 5 meeting.
“The conditions out there are like nothing I have ever seen before in my lifetime,” he said.
Carter gave an update on the fires in and around the area at the meeting, saying all of the fires in the area were projected to be contained by the end of last week, although it wasn’t without the hard work of many firefighters and other entities.
Carter said the Highlands fire, which ignited about 22 miles from the City of Custer two weeks ago, was one of the most aggressive starts to a fire he had ever witnessed.
“You couldn’t have outrun it on foot” when it started, he said, describing the rapid grass fire and, the crowning, exploding trees that accompanied the start of the fire. He said the homes that were lost in the Highlands fire were the first time residential structures were lost in a wildfire in Custer County. He also gave a variety of entities kudos for their hard work and fast action in responding to the fires and coordinating evacuations.
“I can’t say enough of the tireless efforts out there,” he said.
Carter reminded the commission that fire bans are still in effect for the county, which includes a ban on campfires. Those who start campfires will now be subject to fines. Carter also asked the commission to pass a resolution for a Declaration of Emergency for Fire Conditions to be submitted to the state, which could mean some emergency funding for the county. The commission unanimously passed the resolution.
The beginning of the commission meeting started with a meeting with the county’s various department heads, and a verbal warning from commissioner chairman Travis Bies to the department heads to be on the lookout for employees wasting county time by playing computer games while on the job. Bies said there have been complaints received from the public that when they went to various offices for business, employees were playing card games on the computer. No names or specific offices were named.
“I hope we have enough work to keep us busy where we don’t have to worry about what to do with our time,” said commissioner David Hazeltine. “I’m not faulting anybody, because I have not witnessed it.”
Hazeltine called the issue a “matter of public perception,” and said department heads are responsible for staying on top of the issue.
In other news from the July 5 meeting, the commission:
• Heard from county weed and pest director Bill Kirsch, who gave each commission a finalized copy of the Black Hills Mountain Pine Beetle Strategy. The strategy is a regional one that has been worked on for several months by several entities, including the Forest Service. Kirsch said he is not sure how much money the county will have this year for its mountain pine beetle program, and suggested the county consider using revenues brought in by the weed and pest department to facilitate the program in the coming year.
• Heard from county highway superintendent Gary Woodford, who said the chip seal projects on both Sidney Park Road and Playhouse Road are done, and look good. He said his crews are working on solving drainage issues along Beaver Creek Road and are reluctant to mow until more moisture is received, for fear of starting a fire.
Woodford also said he had “fired” MG Oil as the highway department’s fuel supplier, after repeated problems with the company, the most recent of which was its inability to bring fuel out when the county was perilously low.
• Heard from Custer County Sheriff Rick Wheeler, who said his department has been incredibly busy the past few weeks, particularly because of the fires. He added he and two commissioners will meet with city officials next week to discuss the law enforcement contract between the county and the city.
• Will look into studying traffic flow near the intersection of Hwy. 79 and Hwy. 40 at Hermosa after a vehicle accident there last week claimed three lives. Commissioner Jim Lintz of Hermosa said he would like to see a stoplight there, saying it is a problem spot that will continue to see accidents.
Click Here To See More Stories Like This