Photo courtesy Custer State Park
RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) – South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem’s office says the Mine Draw Fire at Custer State Park is 100% contained and much smaller than originally thought.
The fire, which began late Tuesday morning was estimated at 150 acres Wednesday night, but the final estimate is just 60 acres – thanks to rain, hail, and even flooding Thursday afternoon that assisted firefighters. The cause of the fire has not been released.
The Mine Draw Fire was half a mile north of the Legion Lake Fire, which burned 54,000 acres in December, 2017.
The handling of information on the Mine Draw Fire has brought strong criticism from the South Dakota media. Traditionally, a public information officer is assigned to a fire and handles all press inquiries, but Noem’s office was in charge of all communication for this fire.
National Interagency Media Guidelines for Wildland Fires say “federal and state agencies are required to provide equitable and maximum news media access to wild land fire incidents,” but multiple media outlets say they were told they couldn’t shoot video without the governor’s permission
They also say repeated efforts to get information about the fire were unsuccessful because no one from Noem’s office would respond and all other agencies involved in the fire referred reporters back to the governor’s office.
The impact of the fire on Custer State Park was limited. Hwy 87 North was closed from the junction of 16A and Needles Highway to Playhouse road to avoid road congestion and the Grace Coolidge Walk-in Fishing Area, Center Lake beach and lake access were closed because helicopters were using the lake.