Full containment was declared Sunday at 4:40 pm on the Aristocrat Fire, burning since Friday on Nebraska National Forest land about 3 miles south of Chadron near the Spotted Tail Trailhead.
Forest Service spokesman Julie Johndreau says at 11:00 AM today the fire was mapped at 391 acres and 60% contained. It was 50% contained and estimated at 300 acres about the same time Saturday morning.
The initial response to the lightning-caused fire on Friday included two single-engine air tankers based locally, a large tanker out of Rapid City, and a helicopter, but by Saturday morning most of the aircraft had been sent home and only about 80 firefighters from local, state, and federal agencies remained on the fire
The fire is in rugged terrain burned by major fires in 2006 and 2012 with dead and downed trees from those fires making access and containment difficult. Some interior areas have been left to burn so crews can focus on containment lines.
Pine Ridge District Ranger Tim Buskirk is encouraging members of the public to stay out of the fire area because many of the roads are very sandy and difficult to travel on right now. It’s not the first time Buskirk has made such a request.
On Friday, there were instances where members of the public were too close to the fireline which he says led to issues on using the aerial tankers and helicopter. Traffic safety was also a concern with onlookers lining Hwy 385 for a time before the Nebraska State Patrol asked them to leave.
Winds have been a concern much of the time since the Aristocrat Fire was reported about 10:30 Friday morning, but Buskirk says 15-to-30 mph winds that day actually helped firefighters by pushing the fire away from Chadron.
Buskirk also says the U-S Forest Service appreciates all of the support it received on the fire from local volunteer fire departments, Dawes County, Nebraska Game & Parks Commission, and the Nebraska Forest Service.