DEADWOOD | A drive to a Sturgis storage unit on a cool June day led to a hot afternoon for a Lead couple on Tuesday.
Robert and Jeanne Cooper had dropped off a load of household items in Sturgis before turning around to drive home through Boulder Canyon.
Following her husband in a second vehicle, Jeanne said she noticed black smoke wafting from the rear of his 1989 Dodge pickup truck as they drove up a long incline 1.5 miles northeast of Deadwood.
Considering the age of the vehicle, she said, a puff or two of black smoke wasn't at all uncommon.
"I looked down and it was getting kind of hot, so I pulled over on the shoulder," Robert said. "It started smoking and I said to myself, 'It's going to start fire.' And it did."
Within minutes, the pickup was fully engulfed in flame.
"It exploded three times," Robert said shortly after the mishap. "And I had just put 20 bucks worth of gas in it."
The Deadwood Volunteer Fire Department arrived within 10 minutes and doused the flames with water, then applied a fire retardant foam to the entire truck as black smoke still billowed from its melting tires.
Meanwhile, traffic in Boulder Canyon ground to a standstill as South Dakota Highway Patrol troopers and Deadwood police shut down U.S. Highway 14A in both directions for nearly 30 minutes.
As firefighters hosed out the torched truck's still-smoldering interior with the smell of burnt rubber permeating the air, Jeanne said she was sad to see a "good pickup" reduced to nothing.
"We were hoping to get a few more months out of it," she said.