Firefighters prepare Hot Springs SEAT base for season - KOTA Territory News

Firefighters prepare Hot Springs SEAT base for season


Last year's fire season was a very busy one for the Single Engine Air Tanker, SEAT, base at Hot Springs. Crews there had to take care of fires out of Pine Ridge, Chadron, and Crawford Nebraska. On Monday they got ready for the upcoming season.

"We are in the process of de–winterizing and getting our Single Engine Air Tanker base to Hot Springs set up and ready to go," said Jim Strain, Assistant Chief for Operations for South Dakota State Wildland Fire.

Strain says last year was busy. 

"2012 was one of the worst fire seasons we had on record for South Dakota and Nebraska especially. And we sure hope we don't end up this year like last year. But we're not taking any chances," said Strain.

According to fire officials, this year doesn't look like it will be much better.  

"From all the stuff we've been reading, nationally, it looks like we're going to have the same if not a little bit worse at least that we're predicting so far," said Matt Knepel, Engine Boss for the State of South Dakota.

This is the fourth season a SEAT base has been here in Hot Springs. But after last year's busy season more bases were needed.  

"We recognize the need along with the state of Nebraska we're using a federal grant to build three more Single Engine Air Tanker bases. One in Valentine, Nebraska, one in Alliance, Nebraska, and one in Chadron."  

Besides adding new bases, they've been doing more training.  

"Seasonally we've been doing a lot, a little bit more conditioning for our guys that we have on our engines and hand crews and everything," said Knepel.

With the preparations now underway, Strain wants to urge people to be safe.

"People just need to understand we got a stretch of hot, dry, weather coming up the next few days and windy too, so people be careful with fire in open areas and hopefully we'll get our moisture," said Strain.

Strain says it will depend on the weather when they'll have to call in the SEAT planes. But he's hoping it won't be until June. The new bases should be up and running by August.

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