Extreme high winds fan flames throughout weekend

fire plane

IT WAS a challenge to see what was dust blowing and what was smoke Saturday as firefighters and other volunteers fought 40-plus mile and hour winds to put out a fire south of Artesian. Local ag pilot John O’Connell, shown flying above the scene, was crucial in getting the fire under control with his spray plane.

County firemen responded to three fires amidst 30-40-plus mile an hour winds and 50-plus wind gusts Saturday and Sunday.
Saturday afternoon a fire was called in about six miles south of Artesian. It apparently started in a horse barn at the Donald and Elaine Snow place near 415th Avenue and 240th Street. The origin is assumed to be electrical and no horses were in the barn at the time.
The extreme winds quickly spread the fire to their neighbors, jumping a number of times to different locations, making the blaze hard to keep track of and get under control.
Despite the high, gusting winds, MJ Aviation ag pilot John O’Connell of Letcher lent himself to the effort, dumping water on the fire from the air.
Also responding to the scene were fire departments from Artesian, Letcher, Woonsocket and Howard, along with Upland Colony and the SD Wheat Growers for water.
Later that afternoon another fire was reported on Doug Northrup’s land a mile east and two south of Letcher. Letcher and Woonsocket fire departments again responded, assisted by the SD Wheat Growers.
Sunday morning, as the wind continued to blow, Woonsocket firemen were called out of church services to respond to their third fire in less than 24 hours south of Lane, where lots of shelterbelt and grass burned near 234th Street and 389th Avenue, Blaine Township, Jerauld County.
The SD Wheat Growers again provided water to help with the effort.
Monday the wind finally retreated a bit and conditions began to look like they would take a turn for the wetter side. By Tuesday morning, Woonsocket received .85 of an inch of rain, to bring the fire danger under control and give the firemen a much-deserved rest.

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