Forest Service apologizes for Dakotas fire

2013-04-07T23:00:00Z 2013-04-08T07:17:17Z Forest Service apologizes for Dakotas fireThe Associated Press The Associated Press
April 07, 2013 11:00 pm  • 

HETTINGER | A U.S. Forest Service official has apologized for a fire that burned more than 16 square miles of Dakotas grassland after flames escaped from a prescribed burn southeast of Hettinger.

"The Forest Service is extremely regretful that the fire escaped the containment area," Grand River District Ranger Paul Hancock said during a public meeting Saturday in Hettinger with nearly 100 farmers and ranchers.

Hancock said he gave the go-ahead for the 130-acre prescribed burn, The Dickinson Press reported ( ).

No injuries have been reported, but one farm building has been confirmed lost. The fire in the Grand River National Grasslands burned about 10,800 acres in a rural area between Hettinger and the South Dakota towns of Buffalo and Lemmon. Officials reported the fire was 100 percent contained Sunday, when fire crews were patrolling the area and repairing fences cut during the firefighting effort.

The Forest Service has said it plans to compensate landowners for damage to fences, hay bales and anything else that burned.

Hancock's apology did not sit well with Linda Evridge, whose family ranch near Lemmon was scorched.

"My land and everybody's land in here was beautiful," she told Hancock. "The people in this room know this land better than you do. Do you think you should have called and talked to the people in this room before you burned anything?"

Forest Service officials have said they were intending to burn 130 acres of dead crested wheatgrass when the fire broke containment Wednesday and spread throughout federal and private grasslands due to dry and windy conditions.

Babette Anderson of the Forest Service said the spot weather forecast Wednesday did not include a red flag warning, but she did not have information on the wind speed when the fire broke containment. Ranchers have said they advised the Forest Service not to conduct the burn because a cold front moving through was likely to cause high winds.

Tim Smith, president of the Grand River Cooperative Grazing District, said the association has been against prescribed burns for the district since February because of dry conditions. He said he believes the association was proven right after the blaze destroyed fencing and livestock forage.

Hancock said the claims process for compensation still has to be worked out, but it is estimated the cost of recovery could approach $1 million.

"I wish I had all of the answers, but we will work with everyone to figure out how we can best help," Hancock said.

Evridge said Hancock had better hope that $1 million will be sufficient for the recovery.

"We're not going to see the trees we lost out there regrow, and we're going to have erosion problems now. There is simply nothing out there anymore."

Two more prescribed burns were planned this year for the Grand River District, but Hancock said those will be canceled.

nings about conducting the controlled burn.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(13) Comments

  1. dangerous
    Report Abuse
    dangerous - April 09, 2013 11:04 am
    I have a cabin that is unfortunately on a Forest Service land lease. Part of the lease agreement states that if the Forest Circus starts a contolled burn and that burn gets out of hand an burns my cabin down, I have no recourse whatsoever. Why do these landowners get compensated and I don't?
  2. appleguy
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    appleguy - April 08, 2013 6:32 pm
    Mythought, EVERY mistake can be prevented.
  3. mythought
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    mythought - April 08, 2013 5:42 pm
    heather and appleguy,,mistakes do happen,but what people are upset about is this mistake could have been prevented by being aware of wind and drought condition and using common knowledge to not do it,,"common sense just isnt so common anymore"
  4. appleguy
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    appleguy - April 08, 2013 10:43 am
    Not making excuses, I couldn't agree more that they did wrong. Just reminding you to look at yourself, what do ya see? If you're without mistakes, I'd like to meet you 'cause that would be a first.
  5. Heather1085
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    Heather1085 - April 08, 2013 10:37 am
    Renovatio, when a fire gets away by accident people don't get arrested then get fine! And to everyone else it was an accident. It's not like they threw a cigarette out the window on purpose like a lot of ppl do. Firefighters put their lives on the line and don't get paid enough to do so.
  6. Renovatio
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    Renovatio - April 08, 2013 9:44 am
    If a private citizen had a fire get away from them and caused damage they would have been arrested... Why is nobody going to jail over this?
  7. Erudite
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    Erudite - April 08, 2013 8:50 am
    Appleguy, when will you quit making excuses for incompetent, overpaid employees of the federal government? These people make salaries far in excess of the average person and then when they make a mistake, the average person, the taxpayer, gets to pay for it. None of them ever get fired.
  8. Rickdm
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    Rickdm - April 08, 2013 8:11 am
    the bad part is the additional time and expense for the perons having to feed the hay and such if it is replaced. How does a person estimate the extra cost.
  9. maddog777
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    maddog777 - April 08, 2013 7:59 am
    In the private sector he would have been already fired. It will be interesting to see how long this process compensation will take. Of course this will cost all taxpayers the compensation money.
  10. appleguy
    Report Abuse
    appleguy - April 07, 2013 5:19 pm
    Let he who is without ......(making mistakes) be the first to cast a stone. What do you do when your mistakes hurt others?
  11. countrymouse
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    countrymouse - April 07, 2013 5:02 pm
    That's government for you, build a fire on a windy day.
  12. Jim Stewart
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    Jim Stewart - April 07, 2013 2:51 pm
    The Forest Service has said it plans to compensate landowners for damage. What do they care if a burn gets out of control? It's not like the Forest Service spends their own money.
  13. snowflake
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    snowflake - April 07, 2013 12:48 pm
    Isn't that just sweet? Hancock should be fired from the FS immediately. Of course he won't be.
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