In the grasslands and in the forest wild fires kept firefighters on their toes this year. "Boy we really had a busy fire season this year," said South Dakota Director of Wildfire Jay Esperance. "What made it such a long season is that we started so early. We started in March and I mean we started. It started with that big fire on M Hill and it just never stopped all season."
As of Monday there have been 513 more fires than there were last year in South Dakota and about 38,000 more acres have burned. And fighting fires isn't cheap. "The more we fight fire the longer we fight fire sure it's always an expense." said Esperance.
According to the Department of Agriculture the state spent about $4.3 million on fire suppression this year, but what kind of toll does that take on a volunteer fire department like the one in Wall? "We're pretty much low on our budget right now," said Wall Fire Chief Jim Kitterman.
The Wall Volunteer Fire Department has a yearly budget of $32,000. "Probably over half of it goes to insurance, utilities and add repairs in there," said Kitterman. "This year probably three quarters of is already gone."
But the busy season doesn't just put stress on their budget; it also affects the volunteers. "The guys probably put in ten to 15 hours at least a week," said Truck Captain Jackie Kusser.
Kusser is also a mother, a wife, and a full time employee, but she says with the communities help she can do it all. "Our community is really supportive of our fire department and there's several businesses here in town, Wall Drug being one of them that allows me to go and pays me when I go on these runs," said Kusser.
Overall this year's fire season has been long, expensive, and busy. "And it's not over," said Kusser.