Around 11:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 30, two Custer County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a call of a structure fire at 12253 Bavarian Hills Road in Custer and reported heavy smoke and fire conditions.
Kristi Skellenger and her four children who were living in the home managed to escape the fire and were transported to Custer Regional Hospital where they were treated for minor injuries and released.
“There were minor injuries to the family because the mother did exactly as she should,” said Bill Bell, first assistant fire chief of the Custer County Volunteer Fire Department. “The smoke was too thick in the house to use the front door as an escape route so she broke a window to get the kids out and then called 911.”
The structure along with its contents was a total loss but firefighters on scene were able to stop the spread of the flames from reaching nearby structures, infrastructures and other improvements.
Temperatures recorded during the time of the incident ranged from minus 11 to 13 degrees. No civilians or firefighters were injured and the cause of the fire is still undetermined.
Custer Wildcat Wrestling will host a benefit auction for the family at the Buglin’ Bull on Saturday, Jan. 13, at 6 p.m. Donations for auction items can be donated by contacting Jared Webster or Skylair Jaure. There is also a Facebook page for the event called “Skellenger Benefit Auction.”
The American Red Cross is currently providing alternative housing for the family but they are looking for permanent housing for rent in Custer. There is also a GoFundMe page that is accepting monetary donations to help them get back on their feet. You can find the page at gofundme.com under “Kristi Skellenger Home Fund.”
Bell said that this is just a reminder to folks that cold weather can bring higher risks of structure fires because of frozen pipes and added heating equipment.
“Use caution and don’t leave auxiliary heaters unattended. You should also be performing routine maintenance on heating equipment as well as checking smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors,” Bell warned.
Agencies that responded to the call included Custer County Sheriff’s Office, Custer County Ambulance Service, Custer County Emergency Management Agency, Custer Volunteer Fire Department, Argyle Volunteer Fire Department, Hill City Volunteer Fire Department, Pringle Volunteer Fire Department, American Red Cross of Central and Western South Dakota, South Dakota Fire Marshal, City of Custer Public Works Department, Black Hills Energy, Pennington County Fire Administrator and the County Highway Department.