Monday, July 23, 2012

Week 10 at Mount Rushmore

View of Green Valley
behind the Memorial. 
This past week at Mount Rushmore has been all about fire and taking fire precautions.  There is still a smoking ban within the park and has been taken very seriously.  Earlier in the week I did a solo up and over patrol and while on top of the heads I looked for any visible smoke columns.  Quite often the local 1880 Train will be the culprit for many false reports of fires because it shoots out thick black smoke from its engine and every report has to be checked.
The next day Ranger Kimball and I did a back country patrol along the Southeast boundary of the park.  Due to the lightning storm the night before the Forest Service notified us of two confirmed lightning strikes along the boundary of the park and asked if we could check to make sure no fires had started.  Kimball and I were given a map of the Forest Service’s plotted strikes but we did not have exact coordinates.  We were also unsure if the lightning had hit the ground directly or something else such as a tree.  We used the GPS to follow the boundary line until we were in the general area of where the map said the strike should be.  After walking a bit further, we found a recently fallen tree with fresh splintering at the base where it had fallen.  We felt it safe to say that this was our lightning strike and luckily no fire or smoldering had been started.

Tree struck by lightning.

                                                                      The rest of the week I helped with various tasks that needed to be completed at the LE building including picking up the new patrol Tahoe as well as getting tires replaced on the older one.  I also did some more K9 training sessions with Ranger Grego and attended an EEO meeting reviewing the reporting procedures for an Equal Employment Opportunity issue. 
Area burned by Myrtle Fire.
Meanwhile, the Myrtle Fire had started in Pringle, South Dakota and was only a few miles from Wind Cave National Park(Wind Cave is about 40 miles from Mount Rushmore).  The Myrtle Fire has currently burned about 10,000 acres.  They had to evacuate the area including the park and will be closed until further notice.  Because the park has been evacuated, they began doing 24 hour patrols to make sure no one would be coming into the park that shouldn’t be there.  As a way of helping out, they asked if we could assist with these patrols by sending one or two rangers to cover their day shift.  Myself, Rangers Dave Woodcock, and Joe Turgyan patrolled on Sunday for a twelve hour shift.  We were briefed in the morning on our duties and to inform us that they would be starting a back burn just outside the West boundary of the park.  This back burn would help prevent the fire from moving into Wind Cave but would also make the fire look even bigger. 

Myrtle Fire back burn.
Bison skull

We spent most of the day driving around the park, informing visitors that the park was closed, and giving directions around the road closers.  Wind Cave is also known for the various kinds of wildlife living in the park; we were able to see large Bison heards, Elk, Prairie Dogs, Mule Deer, Coyote, and Pronghorn Antelope.  They also have a spot in the park where the place the carcasses of animals that die in the park, most commonly Bison.  It is pretty awesome to see the bones and skeletons of such huge creatures.  Rangers Woodcock and Turgyan also did an impromptu traffic stop training with me to give me a feel for the types of things we’ll be learning at the Academy.  I have a lot to work on but it was nice to get a little bit of a head start and understanding the key aspects of traffic stops.         

Pronghorn Antelope

Prairie Dog

 ProRanger Erin Langeheine

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