jet shadow
Next Warrior Flyby
TBD
jet shadow
Next Ellsworth Fire Department Live Fire Training

TBD




           
 
            
 
 
  
 

Ellsworth Airmen assist in wildfire consuming Custer

Ellsworth Airmen worked with more than 330 firefighters from four surrounding states to combat the wildfire covering 55 square miles of the park.

Firefighters begin creating fire lines to combat the wildfire in Custer State Park, S.D., Dec. 13, 2017. Ellsworth Airmen worked with more than 330 firefighters from four surrounding states to combat the wildfire covering 55 square miles of the park. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Donald C. Knechtel)

Ellsworth Airmen worked with more than 330 firefighters from four surrounding states to combat the wildfire covering 55 square miles of the park.

Firefighters with the Platteville Gilcrest Fire Protection District hose down flames consuming Custer State Park, S.D., Dec. 13, 2017. Ellsworth Airmen worked with more than 330 firefighters from four surrounding states to combat the wildfire covering 55 square miles of the park. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Donald C. Knechtel)

Ellsworth Airmen worked with more than 330 firefighters from four surrounding states to combat the wildfire covering 55 square miles of the park.

A fire rages through Custer State Park, S.D., Dec. 13, 2017. No one has been injured in the fire that has currently consumed more than 55 square miles, however, five homes in the park have been evacuated and one unused building was destroyed. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Donald C. Knechtel)

The park wildfire grew rapidly overnight, pushing beyond the park's borders and threatening nearby communities.

Staff Sgt. Robert Dickson, a crew chief assigned to the 28th Civil Engineer Squadron Firefighter Flight, brings tools to Ellsworth firefighters assisting with the fire in Custer State Park, S.D., Dec. 13, 2017. The park wildfire grew rapidly overnight, pushing beyond the park's borders and threatening nearby communities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Donald C. Knechtel)

According to park officials, the fire grew from about six square miles on Tuesday to about 55 square miles on Wednesday and is 10 percent contained.

A wildfire spreads throughout Custer State Park, S.D., Dec. 13, 2017. According to park officials, the fire grew from about six square miles on Tuesday to about 55 square miles on Wednesday and is 10 percent contained. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Donald C. Knechtel)

Ellsworth Airmen worked with more than 330 firefighters from four surrounding states to combat the wildfire covering 55 square miles of the park.

Erin Considine, a public information officer trainee with the Nebraska National Forest, prepares her gear before heading into the fire at Custer State Park, S.D., Dec. 13, 2017.C(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Donald C. Knechtel)

Ellsworth Airmen worked with more than 330 firefighters from four surrounding states to combat the wildfire covering 55 square miles of the park.

Tyler Lefthand, a Region One firefighter, guides a fire line to combat the wildfire in Custer State Park, S.D., Dec. 13, 2017. The firefighters used drip torches to create a controlled burn to starve the wildfire burning through the park. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Donald C. Knechtel)

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. --

Ellsworth Airmen worked side-by-side with more than 330 firefighters from districts across four surrounding states to combat a wildfire consuming Custer State Park that began Dec. 11.

“A downed power line was the original cause to the fire, the winds were really bad that night and knocked a tree on top of the line,” said Kobee Stalder, a public information officer assigned Custer State Park. “We’ve got a fairly good handle on the fire now. We’ve brought in our heavy tankers, done some retardant drops and have dug a lot of dozer lines along the west of the highway. The biggest concern was structure protecting and defense.”

Overnight, the fire grew from six square miles to 55 square miles due to the winds ravaging the area.

“It was kind of the perfect storm,” Stalder said. “It’s a real rugged area with steep canyons with winds rushing between them where there was already fire to begin with. The winds ripped through that canyon and blew the fire down further southeast. The winds were howling pretty bad, and because the priorities went to structure protection, we didn’t have the active resources to protect that spot. That’s how we got our 35,000 acres in 12 hours.”

After the fire exploded in size, firefighter teams across the region were called in to help. One of those teams, consisted of five Airman from Ellsworth AFB.

“We got called out Tuesday night around 9 p.m.,” said Airman 1st Class Christopher Chenault, a firefighter assigned to the 28th Civil Engineer Squadron. “When we got there we were assigned to echo division and were stationed on the other side of the fire. Our main responsibility was to secure the structures we were posted at from the fire.”

Near the teams location, the fire was rolling up the hill. It was only a matter of time until the flames were right on top of them.

“We did a remarkable job,” Chenault, the driver operator said. “Once the fire broke over the hill, we were ready. We worked very well with the other agencies assigned to our division and stopped the fire on our end before it reached the buildings.”

Wildfires can pose a serious threat to surrounding communities, making the prevention of these fires all the more important.

“This time of year you just want to be aware of your surroundings,” Chenault said. “A fire like this can happen in the blink of an eye and can be started from something as simple as a flick of a cigarette, or hitting a rock with the lawnmower. Be prepared and stay wary.”