Five Fire Units Handle Field Blaze North Of Yankton

Firefighters from five towns were needed to combat a large field fire north of Yankton Thursday. It’s believed the fire was started by a spark while a farmer was combining a cornfield. Extremely dry and breezy conditions have heightened the threat of fires during the harvest. For a video, visit

Firefighters from five communities were needed to battle a large and shifting field fire north of Yankton Thursday afternoon.

According to Yankton Assistant Fire Chief Larry Nickles, a call came in shortly after 1 p.m. A combine was harvesting a corn field in the vicinity of 303rd St. west of Highway 81 when a spark, possibly caused by a rock, ignited a fire that went into a fence line and trees.

“(The combine operator) said he looked back and the field was on fire.” Nickles said.

The northwest wind blew the fire into an unharvested portion of the field, where it began to spread rapidly. At least one of the semis had its tires on fire, Nickles said.

Firefighters from Yankton, Tabor, Lesterville, Volin and Gayville were ultimately dispatched to the scene. Nickles said he had considered contacting other departments, but based on radio traffic, they were busy with their own calls.

The firefighters had to contend with a lack of road access as the fire burned its way through ravines. Nickles said safety lookouts had to be posted because of the shifting winds.

The fire threatened several vehicles and structures at a farm, but firefighters were able to protect the buildings and move the vehicles, including two semi trucks, to safety, Nickles said.

He added that the breeze turned into a major problem. “The wind switched on us three different times. We thought we had the fire contained, but the winds took it again,” Nickles said.

Fire trucks were stationed at some residences along Highway 81 to the southeast of the blaze in the event the fire threatened them.

Portions of 302nd St. and, later, portions of the Utica Oil road were closed for a time by Yankton County sheriff’s deputies because of the smoke.

Later, a second fire was reported in eastern Yankton County along the James River. Because other firefighters were mobilized for the first blaze, fire units from Irene, Wakonda and Vermillion handled the second fire, which was burning in trees near the river.

Through it all, there was only minor damage caused by the first fire.

Firefighters were still on the scene early Thursday evening to deal with hot spots and do general cleanup.

The Yankton Fire Department Auxiliary was also called out to provide water and food to the firefighters

The Yankton County Office of Emergency Management also responded to the field fire.

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