More than 400 South Dakota homes have been evacuated following three separate wildfires that erupted in the Black Hills region on Monday and have so far burned hundreds of acres and destroyed at least one home, authorities said.
The Pennington County Sheriff’s Office said that an initial fire started near Schroeder Road in the Nemo area, about 15 miles northwest of Rapid City. The “still moving” fires have so far destroyed several outbuildings and at least one home, the sheriff’s office said, noting that residents evacuated from Westberry Trails and Schroeder Road have since been allowed to return home.
Rob Powell, incident commander for the Schroeder Fire, said that by 8:30 p.m., more than 1,900 acres had been burned, and that the Schroeder Fire “is still moving.”
The fire is “zero percent contained,” officials said.
According to the National Weather Service, as of Monday evening, at least 20 regions had been placed in the extreme grassland fire danger category, including Sioux Falls, Aberdeen, and Faulkton.
No injuries have been reported so far, but South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, who traveled to Rapid City to oversee the response, has said that “there have been losses and that is tragic.”
The Republican governor said the Schroeder Road fire started on private property, but the cause is still under investigation by officials.
The sheriff’s department warned earlier that it was a “very active and dangerous scene.” About 250 firefighters were battling the blaze on a windy afternoon when gusts ranged from around 50 mph to 72 mph, the Rapid City Journal reported.
“Law enforcement requests that citizens stay out of the area and use alternate routes,” a news release from the sheriff’s office posted on Facebook said.
Two additional blazes were burning southwest of Rapid City, near Keystone, with one covering an estimated 75 acres (30.35 hectares) and the other 20 acres (8.09 hectares), causing road closures and the temporary closure of Mount Rushmore National Memorial, police said.
South Dakota transportation officials shut down a 42-mile stretch of Interstate 90 from Kadoka to Murdo for three hours due to grass fires.
Noem said that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has authorized the use of federal funds for tackling the Schroeder blaze.
Noem told reporters at a press briefing Monday that “the priority needs to be to keep people safe and getting these fires put out.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.