South Dakota firefighters battling a blaze on Black Hills, which briefly forced the closure of the Mount Rushmore National Memorial and prompted the evacuation of hundreds of homes, made progress overnight.
Authorities said Monday that the fire was human-caused.
In an update on Thursday, the firefighters wrote that dry and windy conditions that have helped stoke the flames were expected again. They also said that while they have worked to extinguish “hot spots near structures,” the area is under a Red Flag Warning through Thursday night.
“Our firefighters need your help today: Please avoid outdoor use of fire, or anything that could make sparks,” they pleaded. “Together, we can prevent another new fire.”
But there was some good news for those returning to evacuated areas as the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office said Thursday they were working on a plan to reopen travel on nearby West Highway 44, following reports of active fire near the highway on Wednesday night.
“Nameless Cave and Cleghorn Canyon areas will remain closed through tonight (4/1/21) and will be re-evaluated Friday morning,” they noted in their own Facebook post.
While KELO reported that firefighters were still working on the 244 Fire ‒ one of two smaller fires, the other being the Keystone Fire ‒ in the Mount Rushmore National Memorial area, the memorial announced on its Facebook page Thursday that they are open as firefighters “continue mop-up operations.”
A government incident page said the 244 Fire had spread over 136 acres and is 75% contained. Heavy airtankers and helicopters supported ground firefighters in their effort.
Iron Mountain Road ‒ an alternative route fo the memorial ‒ will remain closed through the day.
“Fire response in the Black Hills relies on the interagency collaboration and the coordination of Resources by the Great Plains Interagency Dispatch Center in Rapid City,” Mount Rushmore National Memorial Superintendent Michelle Wheatley said in the post. “We are grateful to the multiple agencies and firefighters that provided a swift response enabling the reopening of the park.”
Noem traveled to survey the damage from the Schroeder Fire on Tuesday.
“The order will allow the state to provide greater assistance to the response efforts of local and volunteer firefighters,” Noem’s office said in a release. “Governor Noem has spent the past two days overseeing the response to the Schroeder Fire outside Rapid City while monitoring other fire incidents.”
2020 marked yet another record-setting fire season in the U.S., with catastrophic blazes turning California skies orange and scorching millions of acres.
South Dakota has already seen an early start to the 2021 fire season, containing a more than 2,500-acre fire near Fairburn at the beginning of March.
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