Three separate wildfires in the Black Hills yesterday forced evacuations of at least 400 homes northwest of Rapid City, destroyed at least 2 homes and some outbuildings, and shut down Mount Rushmore Memorial until further notice.
Strong west to northwest winds with sustained speeds of 25 to 40 miles per hour and gusts over 65 hampered fire-fighting efforts on all the blazes.
The largest and most dangerous is the Schroeder Fire in the Nemo area. It was estimated at 1,900 acres with zero containment at 8:30 last night. Mapping flights were scheduled last night to get a more accurate idea of the size and burned area.
High winds that hindered firefighters diminished late in the day, allowing a South Dakota National Guard helicopter to join the effort. Three heavy air tankers were ordered along with an air attack platform. All should be in use today.
Two fires are burning near Keystone, prompting additional evacuations. The larger, the 244 Fire, is listed at 75 acres and the other at 15. The 244 Fire closed roads and led to the decision to close Mount Rushmore.
Gov Kristi Noem flew to Rapid City, leaving within 3 hours of the Schroeder Fire being reported – asking for prayers for those affected in her tweet announcing her trip. She later told a news conference the loss of homes was tragic.
There were other fires in western South Dakota as well.The Argyle Fire on federal land about 5-½-miles northwest of Hot Springs, was reported at noon and contained about 7:30 PM at 3.15-acres by a combination of local, state and federal firefighters.
A grassfire closed about 40 miles of Interstate 90 between Kadoka and Murdo for several hours. The Dry Creek Fire 9-miles northwest of Murdo, was estimated at 9,400 acres at 8:00 PM.
In northwest South Dakota, a fire west of Bison drew an all-caps message from the Perkins County Sheriff’s Office telling people to stay off the roads near the fire because they were only complicating things.
Similar problems with onlookers led to similar messages from authorities on both the Schroeder and 244 Fires.