Reflecting on the April 1st, 2021 wildfire — and the heroic people who saved Medora

As the calendar turns from March to April, we can’t help but remember what was happening exactly one year ago today, on April 1st, 2021.

A spark from a sagging power line southwest of Medora grew into a wildfire that tore across the rain-deprived Badlands. “It outran us at just about every corner,” remembers Doug Koester, the Maintenance Manager for the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation.

The fire rapidly approached the city of Medora, as well as nearby locations with priceless history, like the Chateau de Mores and the Burning Hills Amphitheatre, home of the Medora Musical. It forced Medora’s residents to evacuate — to watch the cloud of smoke move and grow and fear the worst for their homes and livelihoods.

One year later, we remember those fearful feelings: but much more, we feel immense gratitude for the nearly 150 brave first responders who leapt into service to save Medora.

“It took everybody working together to fully execute the plan,” recalls Billings County Fire Chief Kyle Shockley.

“We were bound and determined to hold the line,” says Koester, who is also Medora’s Fire Chief.

The line held; once the blaze was extinguished, the fire lines viewed from the sky proved it.

“We do it because we love our community,” says Clint Rood, a member of the TRMF Maintenance Team who helped save the Burning Hills Amphitheatre. “I’m just here to lend a helping hand. I’m no better than the next guy down the line.”

“All the communities came together,” Koester says. Indeed, dozens of first responding agencies from not only western North Dakota, but statewide—and even as far as Colorado—heeded the call and helped save the city we love.

No amount of gratitude is too much for the people who make up those agencies and organizations. So one year after their heroic acts, all of us at the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation say “Thank you” once again to the following groups (and everyone who stepped up to help on that fateful day):

  • Medora Fire Department
  • Billings County Rural Fire Department
  • Billings County Highway Department
  • Billings County Sheriff’s Office
  • Billings County Ambulance
  • Medora Police Department
  • Medora Public Works
  • Belfield Fire Department
  • South Heart Fire Department
  • Sentinel Butte Fire Department
  • Beach Fire Department
  • Golva Fire Department
  • Wibaux Fire Department
  • Golden Valley County Sheriff’s Department
  • North Dakota Highway Patrol
  • North Dakota National Guard
  • National Park Service
  • United States Forest Service
  • North Dakota Forest Service
  • Colorado Emergency Management Office
  • Civil Air Patrol – North Dakota Wing
  • State Radio Communications
  • Stark County Dispatch

We invite you to watch this video, in which we interviewed many of the key people who worked diligently to save Medora from the April 1st wildfire: