Fighting wildfires in the dark

By  | 

Crews are working diligently every day to contain the Legion Lake Fire in Custer County, but what's it like at night?

Black Hills FOX Reporter Katrina Lim takes an up-close look at how wildfires are fought after the sun goes down.

The Legion Lake Fire has ravaged thousands of acres in Custer County.

Fighting wildfires is tough enough, but Section Chief Colby Crawford says there are extra setbacks when it's dark.

Rocky Mountain Blue Team Operation Section Chief Colby Crawford says, "You lose all of your depth perception. You just, everything shrinks in around you. It's harder to tell where the fire's at or how fast it's moving, things like that. Like last night we had, after dark there was roughly 40,000 plus acres of fire growth so it's definitely burning actively at night so it's just a little bit harder to keep your situational awareness."

Since it is December in South Dakota, another challenge when battling blazes in the winter is equipment freezing.

Katrina Lim says, "The Fire Unit Chief says something important to remember, is that fire burns just as much during the day, as it does as night, but there are extra precautions that crews need to take in order to fight the fires in the dark."

Colby Crawford says, "Obviously this time of year it's a little more challenging because the amount of daylight is shorter so you slow down a little bit, make sure everybody's really aware of their LCES - lookouts, communications, escape routes, and safety zones."

Multiple agencies from Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, and Montana arrived Wednesday to help contain the fire.

Night shift crews work from 6 at night to 6 in the morning.

Colby Crawford says, "It's a little harder on that transition when you're going from days into night. Your sleep pattern, your eating pattern, everything's a little messed up, but it's, you transition over into that night shift pretty quick a day or two."

Crawford says once you've done a couple of night shifts, it becomes natural - as natural as fighting fires in the dark can get.