400 Homes Evacuated, Mt. Rushmore Closed Due to South Dakota Fires

KEYSTONE, SOUTH DAKOTA - JULY 02: The busts of U.S. presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln tower over the Black Hills at Mount Rushmore National Monument on July 02, 2020 near Keystone, South Dakota. President Donald Trump is expected to visit the monument and speak before …
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Authorities said Monday they have evacuated 400 homes, and temporarily halted Mount Rushmore tourism due to multiple wildfires.

The Pennington County Sheriff’s Office told reporters a fire started 15 miles north of Rapid City, South Dakota, in the vicinity of Schroeder Road in Nemo, and has already destroyed roughly one and a half square miles. As of Monday, the fire was “still moving.” Authorities said several buildings, as well as at least one home, have already been lost to the flames.

Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom told the Rapid City Journal somewhere between four and five hundred residents had been evacuated from homes in the path of the blaze. Rob Powell, incident commander for the Schroeder Fire Department, said approximately 250 firefighters had been deployed. Authorities said the fire was “zero percent contained.”

The difficulty in containment is largely due to winds as high as 81 mph, with sustained gusts of approximately 55 mph. Fortunately for the responders, those winds are expected to die down toward a relatively sedate 10-15 mph Wednesday.

Local National Weather Service meteorologist Matthew Bunkers said, “Humidity is going to be low so … we’re going to stay dry, but the winds will be diminishing gradually so that’s definitely good news.”

Embattled Governor Kristi Noem confirmed the Nemo area fire had begun on private property. While no injuries have been reported so far, she acknowledged that “there have been losses and that is tragic” during a visit to Rapid City to oversee the response.

Two more fires are burning through the Keystone area, southwest of Rapid City, forcing the closure of the Mount Rushmore National Memorial and surrounding roads through Wednesday. A 42-mile stretch of Interstate 90 has also been temporarily shut down.

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