Mid-day Wednesday, October 7, landowner Peggy Fralick noticed a grass fire burning in the ditch adjacent to their property which is located approximately three miles northeast of Martin on Old Highway 18. Because the Fralick property is located on tribal land, her 911 calls get dispatched to Pine Ridge. When she dialed 911 from her land line, no one answered. Once again, she dialed 911 and still no response.
According to Jon Siedschlaw, Emergency Manager at Pine Ridge, an unfortunate thing happened when the calls came in. The entire Justice Center, where 911 dispatch is located, had to be evacuated and thoroughly sanitized due to exposure to Covid. All calls were forwarded to another phone but somehow Peggy’s calls were missed.
Unable to reach dispatch, Peggy tried dialing a local phone number which she thought was a direct number for the fire department but that ended up being a wrong number.
By this time, the fire had begun to burn up the Fralick’s fence line along their driveway toward their home, encroaching on their neighbor’s tree grove and home. Peggy was able to reach Chris O’Bryan, MVFD’s Fire Chief at his office.
Because of the quick response by the MVFD, the fire was limited to approximately 2.5 acres and the loss of a couple of old sheds.
MVFD was previously notified by the BIA that they cannot fight any fires on trust land in Bennett County as it is out of the fire department’s jurisdiction. There were no BIA units on the scene.
The fire has been labeled suspicious and information has been sent to the BIA for investigation. As of yet, no information has been received by Chief O’Bryan in regards to the investigation.