7:00 PM UPDATE
CHADRON – A combination of local, state, and federal firefighters are currently battling the Aristocrat Wildfire about 3 miles southeast of Chadron and northeast of the Spotted Tail Trailhead, roughly due-east of the U-S Forest Service work center. The fire was started by lightning last night and reported about 11:00 AM.
Forest Service Pine Ridge District Ranger Tim Buskirk said that at 4:30 the fire was estimated at 250 acre in rugged terrain that was preventing firefighters from reaching some areas by vehicle.
As a result, some interior sections were being allowed to burn while crews focus on strengthening containment lines. Buskirk also says that winds from the north are pushing the fire away from Chadron and he expects to have solid containment lines on the north side by morning.
Three single-engine aerial tanker planes from Nebraska and South Dakota have made repeated drops as has a large tanker accompanied by a lead plane. A helicopter is also making bucket drops on hot spots using the Chadron City ponds.
The fire is producing a large volume of black smoke and attracting sightseers along Hwy 385. Buskirk asks everyone to stay away because of traffic issues, with the Nebraska State Patrol making the same direct request in person to those along the highway.
Local, State, and Federal crews are currently responding to the Aristocrat fire about 3 miles south-southeast of Chadron just to the northeast of the Spotted Tail trail head.
A large air tanker and lead plane are on the scene as well as mutual aid from surrounding fire districts.
According to Great Plains Fire Information, the fires last known size was 4-5 acres and is lightning caused.