A storm of fire

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Photo courtesy of South Dakota Wildland Fire Division
By Kacie Svoboda

Even though wisps of smoke still trailed from Storm Hill, the fire was officially declared 100 percent contained last Tuesday — marking the end of a blaze that scorched over 190 acres and lasted for two stressful days.

The Storm Hill Fire was reported at 2 p.m. on April 23 on the hillside behind Mitchell Lake along Hwy. 16/385 and fire departments and federal agencies from around the Black Hills jumped into action, preventing the blaze from damaging any structures or causing any injuries.

By the time the fire was stifled to ashes, over 100 personnel from the U.S. Forest Service, the South Dakota Wildland Fire Division (SDWFD), the U.S. Park Service and the Hill City, Keystone, Rapid City, Sturgis, Spearfish, Interior, Silver City, Custer, Wall, Johnson Siding and Whispering Pines fire departments had helped control the blaze.

Storm Hill’s steep cone shape made for dangerous ground for firefighters.

“It’s just a steep, nasty hillside,” said night incident commander Jeremy Dalman, assistant fire management officer for the Mystic Ranger District.

This topographical challenge was made all the worse by the heavy concentration of mountain pine beetle-killed trees which provided plenty of fuel for the fire, precarious footing with all the downed trees and a high potential for dead trees, known as snags, to fall at any moment.

“Storm Hill is probably more than 50 percent dead, pine beetle kill,” said incident commander Ray Bubb, division chief with SDWFD.

“Access was the issue that drove this entire fire and how it was fought,” said Bubb.

When approximately 50 acres had burned, it was decided by the agencies in charge that fire fighters would conduct a burnout. This would allow the fire to work down to established fire control lines on easier terrain for the fire-fighting procedures.

“There was no reason to kill a human being or risk injuring firefighters for a few snags,” explained Bubb.

This burnout was so impressive Saturday night that Hwy. 16/385 was closed, with traffic controlled by the Pennington County Sheriff’s Department. This was done to minimize the risk of collisions, with heavy fire engine traffic and drivers who could be distracted by the fire.

The fire has been determined to be human caused and to have started on private property, but the cause is still under investigation.

Though Storm Hill is still smoking and may continue to for several more days, Bubb and the other firefighters are confident the fire is vanquished and not even a strong wind could revive it.

As the fire loomed across the highway, local resident Lou Ann Delaney packed some photos, clothes, her fire safe with important documents and the family pets.

“My heart was in my throat and we were getting the camper ready. We were ready to leave if we had to,” added Delaney.

“I’m amazed and grateful to our firefighters for how they handled this fire,” commented Delaney, “They controlled it rather quickly.”


BH Film Festival showcases S.D.

The Black Hills Film Festival returns to the area for the seventh straight year.

The annual event will be held Wednesday through Saturday, May 4-7, bringing people from all over the country to the Black Hills for the love of film. The theme of this year’s festival is to showcase stories with a South Dakota connection.

In keeping with the South Dakota theme, the festival will include something new — a movie exhibit with costumes, movie props and behind-the-scenes photos and videos from movies that were filmed in South Dakota.

Movie memorabilia, most from private collections, will be on display in the Journey Museum upstairs in the library starting April 26 and concluding on the Journey’s birthday, May 21. It features photographs and items from “Dances With Wolves,” “National Treasure: Book of Secrets,” “Star Ship Troopers” and many other films.

The exhibit was created by the Black Hills Film Festival in conjunction with the South Dakota Film Office and many individuals in the South Dakota film industry and with funding assistance from the SD Humanities Council.

On Sunday, May 1, at 5 p.m., at the Journey Museum in Rapid City there will be a free presentation by Dr. David Wolff on “The Union Pacific Railroad and its path through Dakota and Wyoming Territories” with introductory remarks by Rick Mills, director of the South Dakota State Railroad Museum.

A screening of the classic film “Union Pacific” by Cecil B. De Mille will follow. “Union Pacific” memorabilia and a replica of Paramount’s Golden Spike can be seen in the museum exhibit.
The 2016 festival will present over 35 films in four theaters, including 2015 selectee “East Side Sushi,” whose showing was canceled last year due to snow.

One of the most anticipated film screenings at this year’s event is the feature documentary “Prophet’s Prey,” which examines life under the control of Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) prophet Warren Jeffs, followed by a Q & A session with author Sam Brower. “Prophet’s Prey” will be shown at the Elks Theatre in Rapid City on Wednesday, May 4, at 7 p.m. and at a new 2016 location the Mueller Civic Center Theater in Hot Springs on Thursday, May 5, at 6:30 p.m.

Also on May 4, films will be screened at the Elks Theatre in Rapid City. On May 5-6, films will be presented at the Journey Museum Theater, except the Mueller Civic Center showing of “Prophet’s Prey.” May 6-7, the Hill City High School theater will show over 15 films before hosting the award presentations.

For more information about the Black Hills Film Festival, to view a full schedule or to purchase festival passes, go to www.BlackHillsFilmFestival.org.


Chamber elects new president, members

Presidential Plaque — From left, Hill City Chamber of Commerce executive director Janet Wetovick-Bily presents outgoing president Bob Stanfiel with a plaque at the chamber’s Spring Annual Business Dinner last Saturday evening. The plaque commemorated Stanfiel’s three years of service as president. Stanfiel will stay on with the chamber in an advisory position for another year. [PN Photo/Kacie Svoboda]­

By Kacie Svoboda

 One Hill City Area Chamber of Commerce board walked in to the Spring Annual Business Dinner and another walked out, as five individuals were elected to new positions during the  the evening.
The board’s most dramatic change came from longtime president Bob Stanfiel stepping down and vice president Jason Peters of Krull’s Market stepping into the two-year position. Due to the Storm Hill Fire, Peters was not present at the dinner to make his opening remarks, but Stanfiel filled in.

“I think what Jason would say is to pay attention to your local government and pay attention to your tax dollars,” he said.

However, when Peters was contacted to comment, he focused more on praising executive director Janet Wetovick-Bily’s handling of the chamber and shared his outlook on the chamber’s role in the community.

“I think the chamber’s job is to market Hill City and bring visitors to the community,” he said. “Once they’re here, it’s the businesses’ job to get people into their businesses.”

Though Peters jokes that he became the new chamber president by “drawing the shortest straw,” he won’t be alone in the position, as Stanfiel will stay on for one year in a past president/advisory role.

“I’m totally excited for Bob to stay on,” Peters said. “He was an awesome president and I think keeping him on to help guide (the organization) will only be beneficial to the chamber.”

Peters has served on the chamber for approximately two years prior to this, with the last six months in the position of vice president.

Available only in the print version of the Hill City Prevailer News. To subscribe, call (605) 574-2538.


Words can travel like wildfire

By Carol Walker

What a difference a few days make, as a blanket of snow is now beginning to settle on the 193 acres of land burned in the Storm Hill Fire. Kudos to all the firefighters who worked in pretty steep conditions to contain the fire. We appreciate you.

I was thinking that as fast a fire spreads, so too the word spread equally fast as people began conjecturing about how it started, who’s responsible, what people saw, where was it headed, etc. Even all the children in my Sunday school class were bustling with stories, even pictures on their phones of the fire. I hear there is a responsible party and John Johnson made it clear at the council meeting Monday night that it was NOT him or his towers that sit at the top of the hill. I just wanted to get that word out to all who might have thought about the towers.

Much like word of mouth, news spreads quickly in our technological world today. At the death of Prince, as Facebook and Twitter conveyed the news there was almost an immediate response as landmarks all over the country and world gave off a purple haze. The Empire State Building, the Chicago Skyline and the Eiffel Tower are just a few of the places that lit up the sky to honor their Prince.

In Hill City, though we are not devoid of people with technological expertise, word also spreads in the old-fashioned way as the sad news of the passing of Donny Butterfield created a murmur across the town. Though I did not know the man, I heard person after person talk about what a kind, generous person he was, a trucker who lost his life way too soon. His trucker buddies got the word out and on the day of his memorial in a packed high school theater, there was quite a sight outside, as a line of mammoth trucks lined Railroad Avenue during the service. Later they traveled Main Street, honking their horns in tribute to their friend.

On a lighter note, I was thinking about the news of 1976 prices on food at the Hill City Café last Friday. Many people found their way to the café celebrating its anniversary all day on Friday by knocking back the prices. Breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as coffee breaks were enjoyed by a whole lot of people, giddy at the outlandishly low prices.

I heard someone was in there five times during the day, taking advantage of things like 65 cents for a burger, 10 cents for coffee, 40 cents for a piece of pie and double that for pie ala mode. We went over for the supper hour and business was bustling, though the waitresses were beginning to droop, having been there since the wee hours of the morning. Thanks, Patty and crew, for making it a memorable day.

Words travel like wildfire, whether it is from person to person or on the internet. Just like the Storm Hill fire actually brought about some good — the cleaning of the flammable underbrush — it is always awesome to see transmission of words from person to person used for good.


Voyles, the mother of the Rochford Jam

A REAL ORIGINAL — That would be Chris Voyles, who received the "Mother of the Rochford Jam" award in March. She and two other people played together on Christmas Day in 2005 and in March 2006, jamming in Rochford became a regular event on Sunday afternoons. A few of the musicians involved from the beginning met to celebrate 10 years. From left are Paul Larson, Steve Thorpe, Voyles and Don Anderson. [PN Photo/CAROL WALKER]

By Carol Walker

For Chris Voyles and many others, the people who meet under the roof of the Moonshine Gulch in Rochford are like a family. Many members of that family have forged strong relationships because of the Sunday afternoon jam sessions which began more than a decade ago and Voyles was there from the beginning. Recently, she was awarded a hand-carved plaque that honored her for being “The Mother of the Rochford Jam.”

It goes back to Christmas Day 2005 when Chris and her husband, Steve, met friends from Piedmont to celebrate the friend’s birthday as well as Christmas at the Moonshine Gulch. Betsy at the Gulch assembled a table of food and everyone shared a Christmas dinner.

“Picker Todd, one of my friends, and I had brought our guitars. A man I had never met before, Steve Thorpe, also had his guitar. As the day went on, we were all singing, dancing, laughing and sharing stories. It was as if we had known everyone there for years. Before we left, we decided we had to do this again,” said Voyles.

Thorpe remembers receiving an e-mail after that from a friend of Chris’s, asking him to come to Rochford to play some music again.

“I called Gary Stetler and a few other musicians and we went there, but Chris wasn’t there,” said Thorpe.

She was home, sick with the flu. They set another date on a Sunday afternoon in March 2006, and just a few people met that day to enjoy the magic of music bringing people together.

With others interested in joining them, they decided to meet again the next Sunday afternoon and from then on the afternoon jam session has been a regular event.

Rain or shine, summer or winter, the music continues. When the weather is good in the summer, the group moves onto the porch, sharing the melodies with all who are there as well as those who drive by.

“What basically started with three people now welcomes 10, 20 or more musicians, as well as 60-plus audience members,” said Voyles.

According to Voyles, the locals have been the backbone of this — people like Thorpe, Stetler, Paul Larson, Don Anderson, Marvin Berry, Bruce and Sylvia Douglas, Glen Johnson and Uncle Gary. Voyles said she loves all the musicians and she apologized if any were left out.

In addition, people who have summer homes near Rochford play faithfully during that season of the year. Sometimes people stumble upon the afternoon jam session and would like to participate.

“No problem,” said Voyles. Musicians are always willing to share their instruments and invite the newcomers.

People with a wide range of personalities and a variety of talent and from all over the world have come to share music and make new friends. People from the Deep South, free-spirited dreadlock gypsies, folks from big cities and small towns have all converged on Rochford to share in the jam.

“There has been a girl who played the didjeridoo, a yodeling dog, barbershop quartets, a girl who played “Solo cups” (yes, they were red,) accordions, steel guitars, fiddles, mandolins, and so on,” said Voyles.

Even famous people have been known to stop by the saloon. Kenny Putnam, Gordy Pratt and Paul Larsen have all been there, and “Big and Rich” have the Moonshine Gulch in one of their music videos. Voyles recorded her live CD/DVD there on a Sunday afternoon. Thorpe remembers reviewing that CD/DVD in his column in the Rapid City Journal.

Thorpe was instrumental in Voyles receiving the “Mother of the Rochford Jam” award made by a woodcarver at a shop in Lead called “Lead the Way.” Thorpe said he wasn’t sure what she would think of the award, but she appeared to be delighted.

“Chris is just a sweetheart. She has a good heart, she sings beautifully, plays beautifully and she is non-competitive. She is just a great person,” said Thorpe.

“At the Moonshine Gulch, we are all family. Over the years, we have been through births and deaths, marriages and divorces, good times and bad. With every day, our family gets bigger and stronger. On Christmas Day 2005, three people with guitars. 10 years later, who knew?” said Voyles.


Sean Alex Shellito

Sean Alex Shellito was born Aug. 21, 1987, in Rapid City, S.D., to Ray and Gwen (Hamm) Shellito.
Shellito died Saturday, April 16, 2016, at the hospital in Bowdle, S.D. He was 28 years old.

Survivors include his mother, Gwen; two brothers, Ryan Shellito and Michael [Angel] Shellito; sister, Kris Lyon; and his maternal grandmother, Mildred Hamm.

Sean was preceded in death by his father, Ray, and his other grandparents.

Memorial services were held Tuesday, April 26, at the Tolstoy Wesleyan Church in Tolstoy, S.D. A second service will be held Friday, April 29, at 10 a.m. at the Little White Church in Hill City, S.D.

Inurnment will take place at the Hill City Cemetery.


Athletes of the Week

Athletes of the week — Chosen for this week’s honors are, from left, Skylar Ross, Sammy Woodward, Cody Homan and Taylor Edwards.  ­­­[Submitted Photo]

Track - Skylar Ross
This week’s Ranger Girls Track and Field athlete of the week is Skylar Ross. Skylar is  bestowed this honor for her performance at the Spearfish Invitational on April 8. She ran a personal best open 800 time in 2:26.11. This time qualified Skylar for the  state track meet. Watch for Skylar to improve and help the Rangers qualify in a few more events.

Track – Cody Homan
This week’s Ranger Boy Track and Field athlete of the week is Cody Homan. Cody is the example that other athletes on this team should strive to be. Not only is Cody one of the top sprinters on the Ranger program, he is one of the most respectful and hardworking young men a coach could hope to work with. Cody is always willing to do what his team asks of him. If it’s running in relays or competing in the open 300 hurdles, Cody is on board. Keep an eye out for Cody this season as he is expected to get better as we enter the heart of the track season.

Golf - Sammy Woodward
Sammy started off the season with a 93 at the Elks Invitational, taking fourth  place and helping to lead the girls team to a first- place finish with a 288, their first ever score under 300. Then, with rainy, windy conditions on the gusty plains of the Wall golf course, Sammy carded a 92 to take first place among all golfers. This is the first time she's taken medalist honors at a meet, and it probably won’t be be the last. Sammy has grown into a mentally tough contender who has provided strong leadership this year and her coach and teammates are looking forward to great things over the course of the season.

Golf – Taylor Edwards
Taylor started the season with a personal best 92 at the Elks Invite, shaving 37 strokes off of his score there last year.  He followed that up with 91, another personal best, at the Wall Invitational, taking third place. This was the first time Taylor has medaled as a varsity player. Taylor is stepping up big as a freshman and we’re hoping he continues for the rest of the season.