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'Active and dangerous scene': Mount Rushmore closed, 400 homes evacuated as multiple wildfires spread in South Dakota

Elinor Aspegren and Michael Klinski, USA TODAY NETWORK
·2 min read
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Wildfires spread through the area just outside Mount Rushmore on Monday, closing the monument and neighborhoods in Rapid City, South Dakota, while fire crews battle threatening high winds.

One blaze, named the Schroeder Road fire, was less than 1,000 acres, incident commander Rob Powell said during a news conference Monday afternoon. At least 400 people have been evacuated, but no injuries were reported. About 250 firefighters responded to fight the fire in 50 to 72 mph winds.

"This is a very active and dangerous scene, Law Enforcement requests that citizens stay out of the area, and use alternate routes," said a Pennington County Sheriff's Office news release posted on Facebook.

Two additional blazes burned southwest of Rapid City, near Keystone, one covering about 75 acres and the other 20 acres, leading to the closure of roads and Mount Rushmore, according to police.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem said Monday afternoon at a news conference that the fire did not threaten Mount Rushmore.

She arrived in Rapid City on Monday to "oversee the response efforts." The cause of both fires is unknown.

Noem said the Federal Emergency Management Agency authorized funds for fighting the Schroeder Road fire, which started on private property.

"There have been losses, and that is tragic for these families," Noem said. "But the priority needs to be to keep people safe and getting these fires put out."

Authorities said two residences and several outbuildings were destroyed.

Elevated winds increased the potential for the fires to spread, according to the Rapid City Journal. High winds knocked out power for Black Hills residents, power company Black Hills Energy said on Twitter.

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As of noon CDT, winds shifted to the southeast as a cold front moved through, but gusts were expected to be up to 60 mph through the afternoon, National Weather Service meteorologist Katie Pojorlie said.

Expecting northwesterly winds to increase to 25 to 35 mph with gusts up to 45 mph, the National Weather Service in Rapid City extended a red flag warning through Tuesday for the region.

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY NETWORK: Mount Rushmore closed as multiple wildfires spread in South Dakota