Cottonwood Fire disaster declaration
Governor Dennis Daugaard has signed an emergency disaster declaration for Jackson County, in response to damage caused by the Oct. 16, Cottonwood wildfire.
The state will cover 90 percent of nonfederal fire apparatus fuel costs, all aircraft expenses and South Dakota Wildland Fire’s suppression expenses. “Using dollars from the State Fire Suppression Special Revenue Fund, the state will assist Jackson County in paying fire response costs,” said Daugaard.
“This prairie fire is the most destructive I have observed for fence loss, cattle loss, hay loss and pasture loss in my 27-year career,” said Jim Strain, deputy director of South Dakota Wildland Fire. Officially, the Cottonwood Fire is the fifth largest in the state’s history.
An informational meeting was held in Wall, Oct. 20. State and local firefighters re-iterated the heroic actions and interagency cooperation that exemplified the work against the fire. The Pennington County Type 3 Incident Management Team took over management of the fire at about 6:00 p.m., Sunday evening. After the fire was contained, clean-up efforts were returned to local departments.
The total acreage for the Cottonwood Fire stands at 41,360 acres of private, national grasslands and state land. This number represents more accurate mapping of the fire perimeter. Livestock losses reported to the Jackson County sheriff's office stand at 137, as no additional losses were reported to the team.
The PCIMT3 noted that the quick and noble actions of initial attack crews should be commended. In many cases, firefighters responding to the initial fire fronts put themselves at risk of great personal harm. Nearly 300 firefighters, 40 different departments, from 10 western and central South Dakota counties, most of them volunteers, descended on the Cottonwood Fire in short order. These actions undoubtedly stopped the Cottonwood Fire from becoming an even larger and more devastating disaster. The exact cause of the fire, other than human caused, will probably never be known.
The meeting then turned to recovery programs.
The South Dakota Department of Agriculture partners with the United States Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency in administering a program to connect producers in need of hay with those that would like to donate hay removed from acres enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program. South Dakota Deparment of Agriculture is extending the deadline for CRP donated hay application to those producers affected by the fire. Producers interested in receiving donated hay can find the application on sdda.sd.gov. SDDA is working with USDA to see what other assistance may be available for impacted producers.
Private citizens are gathering for fencing details, hay donations, pasturing of other’s cattle, and other neighborly efforts. A lunch for all families affected by the fire is set for Thursday, Oct. 27, in the Wall Community Center, starting at 11:00 a.m. Information will be distributed by multiple agencies concerning recovery programs and efforts.
Sylvia Christen, executive director of the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, has experience in recovery efforts from Winter Storm Atlas. Christen advises landowners and producers to apply for and accept any and all offered aid.
“Use the checks and other donations, rebuild your business, give back to someone maybe in 20 years. You have to be willing to fix up now, so you can be able to give back in the future,” said Christen. To donate or to receive, contact her at 605-342-0429, silvia.sdsga@ midconetwork.com or www.southdakotastockgrowers.org.