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Fire Breaks out at Spearfish Shooting Range

If someone shouts “Fire!” at a crowded shooting range, grab a bucket!

One environmental impact not discussed in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s benign assessment of the proposed Rapid City shooting range north of Ellsworth Air Force Base is wildfire. Stray gunfire at the Spearfish shooting range started a grass fire Saturday:

It grew in size quickly up the steep hill behind the target stands amid strong winds.

The charred grass appeared to be more isolates to the left side of the range, behind the 100-yard, rifle portion of the range.

Fire crews and flames could be seen after sundown on the hillside above the range.

…George King, administrator of the Spearfish Rifle & Trap Club Facebook page, said the fire was likely the result of either a ricochet, rooting of tracer rounds, or the deliberate shooting of rocks on the slope behind the target stand [Mark Watson, “Fire at Spearfish Rifle, Pistol Range Driven in Strong Winds,” Black Hills Pioneer, 2022.09.25].

Knuckleheads caused a similar, smaller fire at the Spearfish shooting range in November 2020:

Around 4:11 p.m., it was reported that two individuals were seen on the pistol side of the range shooting up into the hillside, which sparked two small fires.

Spearfish Fire Department responded and were able to contain the spread to less than 1/10th an acre. Rimrock in the area helped limit the spread of the fire uphill.

17 personnel, five engines, and one water tender responded, with the fire contained around 5:20 p.m. and controlled by 5:45 p.m. By 11:50 a.m. on Monday, the fire was “officially out” [Darsha Nelson, “Spearfish Firefighters Contain Small Grassfire at Spearfish Rifle Range,” KNBN, 2020.11.09].

Remember: every additional wildfire pulls firefighters out to the field for hours and reduces their ability to respond to other emergencies, like the kitchen fire that shut down Cheyenne Crossing last weekend. Given that 91.8% of South Dakota’s firefighters are volunteers who are in short supply, you’d think Meade County and the state might want to include firefighting costs in their assessment of the impact of the Rapid City shooting range on the Black Hills.


  1. All Mammal 2022-09-28 08:28

    Thank you for the strong opposition point. I will add it to my g’zillionth letter to the meathead @ 500 E. Capitol Ave.
    Oh dear, I’m on a name-calling spree already this morning. That’s when I know Mr. H. has been at it like a one-eyed badger.

  2. Bob Newland 2022-09-28 09:55

    “…like a one-eyed badger.”

    I nominate All Mammal for whatever prize there is for most constructive use of simile in blog comments.

  3. P. Aitch 2022-09-28 14:00

    I second that nomination.
    PS… Shooting ranges should be closed when the wind rises above 10 mph. It’s too dangerous as explained in Cory’s post.

  4. Arlo Blundt 2022-09-28 14:42

    Who needs a shooting range?? In these parts, folks just take out the AR 15 and fire off a couple clips in the backyard after dinner. Must be good for digestion.

  5. Bonnie B Fairbank 2022-09-28 17:43

    Too true, Arlo. Many of my neighbors like to lawn chair in their back yards and blast away at the cliffs across the Fall River (i.e. – The Crick.) Probably won’t bag any humans; animals be damned.

    One of my least favorite memories of Fort Carson is of the night fire exercise that started a grass fire because the prisoners in “The Stockade” did not load our M-16 clips correctly. Instead of every fifth round being a tracer, they just loaded most of the clips with regular rounds and loaded a few with total tracers. The firing range (seargent? master? can’t remember title) noticed it immediately, but too late. You never saw so many sojers flailing flames with their field jackets.

  6. larry kurtz 2022-09-29 18:30

    Oh yeah and btw: to the somebody in a white Nissan with South Dakota plates from Aurora County careening across four lanes of northbound I-25 in front on us in Albuquerque yesterday, f¥ck you.

  7. grudznick 2022-09-30 20:58

    Sorry, Lar. My bad. I was reaching for a bag of potato chips I dropped.

  8. John Dale 2022-10-01 08:24

    There was another grass fire on the other end of town a few weeks back that was not caused by America’s martial art.

    The grass growing there now is incredibly green and nutrient dense, now, unlike the grasses around it.

    Wild land fires are bad for human values at risk like houses and such, but it sure does help the natural order.

    If only there was a way to manage fire so it doesn’t get out of control, but provides the benefits of renewal.

    Hmmm .. maybe if Bernie Bros weren’t in charge of it?

  9. larry kurtz 2022-10-01 08:39

    Crow Peak just outside Spearditch or Paha Karitukateyapi is translated as “the hill where the Crows were killed” stemming from a battle between the Lakota and Crow Nations. The Crow allied with Custer and the United States Army believing they would reclaim the Black Hills.

    In 2012 there was a lightning struck fire on Crow Peak which was stopped at 135 acres that the Forest Service should have let burn. Then again in 2016 another wildfire on Crow Peak affected mostly Republican landowners who built in the wildland urban interface begged the feds to protect their properties. These people, white retirees from somewhere else who hate gubmint, fled Minnesota, Colorado, Arizona or California then parachuted into South Dakota hoping to isolate themselves from fair taxation, African-Americans and cultural diversity.

  10. larry kurtz 2022-10-01 08:58

    FWIW, the Bernie Bros who run the Park Service and Bureau of Land Management have scheduled burns while Meade County whines about how to keep Jim Neiman from closing his sawmill in Spearditch.

  11. larry kurtz 2022-10-01 09:29

    So, Republican South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem is correct when she said the Black Hills National Forest has been poorly managed. I maintain that has been happening since 1899 and Forest Service Case Number One. A century and a half of domestic livestock grazing and care less land management practices created an unnatural overstory best controlled by the mountain pine beetle, prescribed fires and periodic wildfires. Native Douglas fir and lodgepole pine are virtually extirpated from the Hills but the BHNF is trying to restore native limber pine (Pinus flexilis) in the Norbeck Wildlife Preserve.

    Jim Furnish was deputy chief of the US Forest Service from 1999 to 2002.

    Notably, the burned terrain exemplifies what we consider the best way to fire proof a forest. This mature forest of small sawtimber had been previously thinned to create an open stand intended to limit the likelihood of a crown fire. Yet, the fire crowned anyway and raced across the land at great speed, defying control efforts. Much of the area remains barren 20 years later, while the Forest Service slowly replants the area. I cite this example, because it represents precisely what agencies posit as the solution to our current crisis: 1) aggressively reduce fuel loading through forest thinning on a massive scale of tens of millions of acres (at a cost of several $billion), while trying to 2) come up with sensible answers about how to utilize woody material that has little or no economic value; and 3) rapidly expanding the use of prescribed fire to reduce fire severity. These solutions are predicated on the highly unlikely (less than 1%) probability that fire will occur exactly where preemptive treatments occurred before their benefits expire. These treatments are not durable over time and space, and only work if weather conditions are favorable, and fire fighters are present to extinguish the blaze. We need new thinking and new approaches that see fire management in context with climate change, forest carbon sequestration and storage, biodiversity, clean water and good air quality.

    [Response to “Commentary: Counteracting Wildfire Misinformation, by Jones et al 2022”]

  12. larry kurtz 2022-10-01 12:14

    Mechanical fuel treatments must be followed by fire. Furnish’s essay on the Jasper Fire is linked here.

  13. All Mammal 2022-10-01 13:08

    Forest MANagement- oxymoron
    Forest is WILDerness
    Let them be, nature doesn’t have to bend to MAN’s desires. Fit in or stay out. Enjoy from afar and learn from nature. She has an imagination beyond our comprehension.

  14. grudznick 2022-10-01 21:33

    Lar is righter than right. My good, out-of-state friend knows I was on the ground out there, after the hard working fellows got this all slammed down, but what really needed to happen was that young lady who got out of her car and peed on the side of a highway and threw out a cig, we assume it was normal tobaccy, not the demon weed, and watched it start a fire and drive off…she got a slap on the wrist sort of prison sentence. She should be sent out like a tar and feather baby for the masses, annually.

    So sayeth grudznick.
    So sayeth you all.

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