Firefighters continued to make progress on Wednesday to contain wildfires in South Dakota’s Black Hills that previously forced the evacuation of more than 400 homes, caused the closure of Mount Rushmore and triggered a state declaration of ’emergency.
South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem on Tuesday signed an executive order in response to the severe drought and ongoing fires, declaring a state of emergency until June 1.
The ordinance will allow the state to provide greater assistance to the response efforts of local and volunteer firefighters.
Fire crews have increased containment of the largest blaze in the Nemo, South Dakota area to 47%, the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post on Wednesday. Dubbed the Schroeder Highway Fire, the blaze burned nearly 3.4 square miles.
The police opened some neighborhoods that had been evacuated, but only admitted people who lived there. Residents were asked to stay on their property and not to call 911 unless there was an imminent danger of fire outbreaks.
The Schroeder Road fire crossed two neighborhoods close to Rapid City, according to the sheriff’s office. At least one house was destroyed, along with several other structures. No injuries were reported.
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Two smaller flames were burning southwest of Rapid City, including one in Mount Rushmore National Memorial Park, which remained closed on Wednesday.
The fire continued to burn in a rugged and rugged country inaccessible by roads, officials said. Oil tankers and heavy helicopters supported firefighters on the ground as they protected homes and worked to contain the blaze.
The wind remained a factor in the firefighting efforts, but was not as strong as it was on Monday and Tuesday, firefighters said.
High winds and drought conditions also fueled a wildfire in western North Dakota, where a firefighter was injured in a fire truck crash due to low visibility from the smoke. Injuries are not thought to be life threatening.
The blaze burned about 1 square mile north of Richardton, North Dakota, officials said.
An abandoned building burned down in the fire, along with fences, power lines and utility poles. Montana-Dakota Utilities spokesman Mark Hanson said the fire damaged five of the company’s structures, causing one to collapse.
A fallen power line is said to have started the fire.
Contributor: Alfonzo Galvan from Chief Argus of Sioux Falls; Associated press