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Schroeder Fire: Hwy 44 open to through traffic, fire is 2,195 acres, now 86% contained

Schroeder Fire aftermath on West Camp Rapid.
Schroeder Fire aftermath on West Camp Rapid.(Dominik Dausch)
Published: Mar. 29, 2021 at 11:44 AM CDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - UPDATE 10 a.m. April 1

Authorities said the fire has impacted 2,195 acres of heavy wildland-urban interface areas in the Doty and Johnson Siding Fire Protection Districts in Pennington County west of Rapid City.

As of 10 a.m., authorities said Highway 44 is open to through traffic.

Firefighters have the blaze 47% contained, with containment lines on the eastern and western sides of the fire.

UPDATE 7 p.m. March 31

Firefighters are continuing the effort to contain the Schroeder Fire west of Rapid City. The Rocky Mountain Blue incident team was brought in to assist in the effort.

They’re measuring the fire’s current size at 2,165 acres. Firefighters have the blaze 47% contained, with containment lines on the eastern and western sides of the fire.

Rocky Mountain Blue Section Chief Chris Zoller said that since it’s so early in the fire season, resources to combat the blaze can be tough to acquire and a collaborative effort can ensure progress.

“A lot of times during the fire season, you see shortages of resources because of the national fire effort,” Zoller said. “We’re seeing the same thing right now; we just don’t have a lot of resources to bring in.”

Firefighters are continuing to strengthen fire lines as they prepare for stronger wind gusts Thursday.

UPDATE 9:30 a.m. March 31

Families in certain neighborhoods affected by the Schroeder Fire can access their homes Wednesday, authorities said.

Starting at 10 a.m. on March 31 residents only may access their homes in the neighborhoods of Westberry Trails, Red Dale Drive, Pinedale Heights, National Guard Way and Cinnamon Ridge. If residents return, law enforcement advises them to stay on their property and not wander the neighborhood or wooded areas.

As of Tuesday evening, authorities said the fire was 47% contained and is expected to increase steadily. Earlier in the day, Rob Powell, Schroeder Fire manager, said crews would work to contain half the fire. Fire officials suspect the Schroeder Fire, which consumed 2,100 acres miles west of Rapid City, was human-caused.

Neighborhoods that remain closed include Magic Canyon, Dark Canyon, Blake Road, Cleghorn Canyon and Nameless Cave Road.

Residents need to remain alert to surroundings and understand the evacuations may be put back in place at a moment’s notice based on any unexpected fire activity, authorities said.

Law Enforcement is working with officials at Camp Mniluzahan for a potential opening later this week.

Highway 244 remains closed through Wednesday morning. The closure will be reevaluated in the early afternoon.

UPDATE 8:45 p.m. March 30

Fire officials suspect the Schroeder Fire, which consumed 2,100 acres miles west of Rapid City, was human-caused.

As of Tuesday evening, authorities said the fire was 47% contained and is expected to increase steadily. Earlier in the day, Rob Powell, Schroeder Fire manager, said crews would work to contain half the fire.

New containment lines and moderate fire behavior allowed crews to make progress on containment. Airtankers that dropped retardant helped control the fire in hard-to-reach spots, unable to be accessed by crews.

“Many homes were saved in the Cleghorn Canyon area, but there is still plenty of heat backing down the canyon and evacuations are expected to remain in place for the next several days”, Powell said.

The incident objectives are to keep the fire north of Highway 44, south of Nemo Road, west of Rapid City limits and east of Nameless Cave Road and Wild Irishman Road, Powell said.

High winds are and will continue to be a factor through the evening hours Tuesday night. However, wind speeds will decrease Wednesday, which is expected to provide additional support for fire containment.

UPDATE 3:30 p.m. March 30

The Schroeder Fire grew to 2,100 acres big as of 3 p.m. Tuesday and authorities are hoping to have it is now 50% contained by Tuesday night.

One home and two outbuildings were destroyed by the fire. No injuries have been reported, the sheriff’s office said.

One house in the Westberry Hills survived the 1988 Westberry Trails Fire, but didn’t fair as well during the Schroeder Fire. That fire was 3,840 acres, claimed 15 homes, two mobile homes and 40 outbuildings and 42 vehicles.

This afternoon, Rob Powell, incident manager for the Schroeder fire, said the Cleghorn Canyon area is the most threatened because those buildings are holding a lot of heat. On Tuesday, a heavy air tanker dropped four loads of fire retardant on the blaze in Cleghorn Canyon. Two South Dakota Army National Guard Black Hawk helicopters are being used to drop buckets of water on the fire and are also providing aerial reconnaissance for firefighters.

The fire has passed through Westberry Trails and Pinedale Heights and authorities are beginning to work to ensure people can return to those areas. No one has gotten the OK return yet.

SEE A GALLERY OF PHOTOS OF THE SCHROEDER FIRE

Powerlines, according to fire officials, burned down in the Westberry Trails neighborhood. According to the Pennington County Fire Service, FirstNet deployed a mobile signal booster to assist firefighters with better cell phone coverage and communication capabilities in the Westberry Trails area.

SCHROEDER FIRE UPDATE — FirstNet deployed a mobile signal booster to assist firefighters with better cell phone coverage...

Posted by Pennington County Fire Service on Tuesday, March 30, 2021

The Chapel Valley neighborhood isn’t threatened by the fire since the blaze didn’t cross south of Highway 44.

Roads are still blocked at Highway 44 to Chapel Lane and Johnson Siding Fire Station #2. At Red Dale Drive at National Guard Way, Pine Dale Ridge at S Berry Pine Road and Westberry Hill Road at Nemo Road are still blocked.

Schroeder Fire evacuation map as of 10 a.m. March 30
Schroeder Fire evacuation map as of 10 a.m. March 30(Pennington County Sheriff's Office)

The main priority of fire crews has been to prevent new fires. The state of South Dakota doesn’t have the resources to address any additional fires, so more resources from out of state are on their way, according to South Dakota Wildlife Division Director Jay Esperance.

There has 75 law enforcement officers from Highway Patrol, Rapid City Police Department and Pennington County Sheriff’s Office actively working to direct traffic and evacuate residents.

The cause of the Schroeder Fire is currently under investigation.

UPDATE 9:24 a.m. March 30:

Authorities are reporting the Schroeder Fire has crossed Cleghorn Canyon and Nameless Cave areas. As of Tuesday, it’s 0% contained.

One home was destroyed by the fire, the Pennington County Sherrif’s Office said.

Authorities are advising against any other evacuations at this time, though Chapel Valley is in question since the fire is a half of a mile away from the area.

Roads blocked at:

  • Highway 44 at Chapel Lane
  • Highway 44 at Johnson Siding Fire Station #2
  • Red Dale at National Guard Way
  • Pine Dale Ridge at S Berry Pine Rd
  • Westberry Hill Rd at Nemo Road
Schroeder Fire evacuation map as of 10 a.m. March 30
Schroeder Fire evacuation map as of 10 a.m. March 30(Pennington County Sheriff's Office)

UPDATE 8:30 p.m. March 29

An infrared flight flew over the Schroeder Fire this afternoon and the estimated acreage of that fire now sits at 1,900 acres. Crews will continue to monitor the fire overnight.

Residents can return to Schroeder Road and West Berry Hill Road, officials said on Monday. Below is the evacuation map.

UPDATE: 5 p.m. March 29

A fire that started at 9:15 a.m. on Monday has destroyed at least two homes and several outbuildings, fire officials said on Monday. Officials said between 400 and 500 homes have been evacuated in Rapid City as around 250 firefighters fight the blaze. The fire started on private property.

As of 4:45 p.m. Monday, Cleghorn Canyon, Nameless Cave Road, Cavern Road, Pinedale Heights, Dark Canyon, Magic Canyon, Blake Road and Mini Luzahan Camp are evacuating.

Residents can return to Schroeder Road and West Berry Hill Road, officials said.

Nemo Road is open again. It was closed briefly for visibility.

Map of evacuation areas from Schroeder Road fire
Map of evacuation areas from Schroeder Road fire(Pennington County Sheriff's Office)

UPDATE 2:30 p.m. March 29

Nemo Road is now open to through traffic.

Checkpoints to West Berry Trails Subdivision and Schroeder Road have been established in those areas.

UPDATE 1:30 p.m. March 29

The wildfire at Schroeder Road and Nemo Road has continued to rapidly develop and more neighborhoods are asked to evacuate.

Residents living on Dark Canyon and Magic Canyon area, Cavern Road, Nameless Cave Road, Cleghorn Canyon Road, in the Pinedale Heights area and anyone west of Berry Pine Heights Drive are evacuating. Previously, the Westberry Trails Subdivision was evacuated.

For shelter, check-in at the Red Cross Reception set up at South Canyon Baptist Church located at 3333 W Chicago St #2317.

UPDATE 12 p.m. March 29

The wildfire at Schroeder Road and Nemo Road has continued to rapidly develop.

For those who have evacuated the Westberry Trails Subdivision can check-in at the Red Cross Reception set up at South Canyon Baptist Church located at 3333 W Chicago St #2317.

UPDATE 11 a.m. March 29

Crews reported that the fire is actively burning between two homes in the Westberry Trails area. The fire is four miles west of Rapid City on Schroeder Road.

The Rapid City Fire Department said that the Pinedale Heights and West Camp Rapid could possibly be next to evacuate.

The fire is spreading, so RCFD wants residents to be ready to evacuate.

Travel on Nemo Road is closed as crews battle the blaze.

This is a developing story. KOTA Territory News will keep you updated.

A fire is burning in western Rapid City.

Around 9:15 a.m. Monday, March 29, crews responded to a fire in the Westberry Trails area near Highland Loop. Smoke is visible in Rapid City,

As of 10 a.m. one crew has responded and more fire crews are on the way. Black Hills Fox News has heard people are being asked to evacuate.

Strong west to northwest winds with sustained winds of 25 to 40 miles per hour and gusts to 65 miles per hour expected in Rapid City on Monday, according to the National Weather Service. Fire danger in Rapid City is extreme Monday, according to the Rapid City Fire Department.

This is a developing story. KOTA Territory News will keep you updated.

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