Kelly Blair Fire Sunday night
A report came in around 6:00 p.m. Sunday, July 16, and the Philip fire whistle blew. While going to one fire near the Ottumwa Road east of Philip near Glen Hostutler's place, the Philip Volunteer Fire Department received a call of another fire near Milesville.
Two Philip trucks were diverted to join with the Milesville volunteers. Later, trucks from the Ottumwa Fire joined in the effort - an effort that demanded firefighters and equipment from 12 departments until after 3:30 a.m.
The Kelly Blair Fire "still has a lot of hot spots. Knock on wood that our fine line holds," said Philip Fire Chief Marty Hansen.
The departments included Milesville, Philip, Midland, Murdo, Kadoka, Quinn, Wall, Howes, Enning, Faith, and a Black Hills National Forest crew. "The Black Hills Type 6 unit was a brush rig and two professional experts," Hansen said. "They are professional experts with all the connections. They don't like to take over a fire, but they help to do backburning and have other equipment, like GPS units."
That GPS unit was used to measure the extinguished fire and reported that over 700 acres of vegetation in very rugged country had been destroyed. Much of Blair's winter pasture is gone.
"That was one wild son-of-a-gun for awhile," said Hansen. "We were very lucky to get it stopped. It jumped Highway 34 several times and could have taken out three or four rancher's places. If it had gotten lose to the west, I don't know where we would have stopped it."
The 12 departments were augmented by many ranchers with spray rigs and private water-hauling trucks.
Around 3:30 a.m., according to Hansen, the firefighters had a chance to dig in some fire lines and could take over the situation from the fire. "It burned in the right places. The wind blew from the right direction. It looked pretty good when we finally left there."
Hansen had a personal trial during this fire; he is uncomfortable with snakes. "The fire really stirred up the rattlesnakes. The fire and our guys killed quite a few. I counted five myself."
On Tuesday, July 18, around 11:00 a.m., the Philip Volunteer Fire Department was called back to put out a flare-up of the Kelly Blair Fire. Results of that call-back were not available as of press time.
The Haakon County Sheriff's Department has reported that the cause of the fire is officially under investigation.