20th anniversary of largest wildfire in South Dakota history

The Jasper fire began on August 24th, 2000, in the area west of Jewel Cave.
Published: Aug. 24, 2020 at 6:40 PM CDT
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BLACK HILLS, S.D. (KOTA) - Twenty years ago, on Aug. 24, the largest wildfire in South Dakota history burned its way across the Black Hills.

The Jasper fire began on Aug. 24, 2000, in the area west of Jewel Cave.

Jewel Cave National Monument was evacuated and closed until Sept. 2 of that year when crews were sure that there was no longer any danger, and the fire was almost entirely contained.

The fire burned through 83,508 acres in the southern Black Hills and approximately 90% of the land area of Jewel Cave National Monument, according to the National Park Service.

Monday, the Pennington County Fire Administrator looked back on the historic fire.

“It’s just a reminder of how important it is for us to keep our properties fire-wise, to do the fire-adapted practices, and be prepared for these types of incidents really year-round,” said Jerome Harvey, Pennington County Fire Administrator. “The thing that again sticks in my mind is the fact of the plum dominated event. It’s recorded the fire actually could outrun a mountain lion, so that gives you an indication of how fast at some point in time the fire was actually moving.”

Harvey was present for the Jasper wildfire, and he says that the current fire danger levels remind him of the conditions leading up to that tragic blaze.

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