High Winds Fan Custer State Park Fire in S.D.
A fire that broke out early Monday morning in Custer State Park in South Dakota near Legion Lake has quickly spread to over 4,000 acres, according to park reports, and was last reported at only 7 percent contained.
According to the Custer County Sheriff’s office, Hwy 79 was closed from Maverick Junction to Hermosa the evening of Dec. 12 and remains closed until further notice.
The official cause of the fire remains under investigation, but original reports listed a power line as the potential cause. The blaze started near the intersection of U.S. Highway 16A and S.D. Highway 87 North early Monday morning.
The Legion Lake Fire has rapidly moved east of Custer State Park, forcing evacuations, and making firefighting difficult. Smoky conditions are making the exact location of the fire difficult to find, and park officials believe spot fires are popping up within a half mile of the fire flank.
The fire has moved out of the Custer State Park boundary, and Custer County Sherriff’s Office has expanded evacuations to include Cobb, Downen, Dry Creek and LH roads, and all areas south of Buffalo Gap, but not including Buffalo Gap residents. Residents at risk east of the Custer State Park boundary near Wildlife Loop Road and LH Road were also evacuated.
Firefighters have worked to protect structures including the popular Blue Bell Lodge, Legion Lake Lodge, and the State Game Lodge, but all remain threatened. Five homes in the park have been evacuated and one unused building was burned down. No one has been injured.
Custer County Dispatch has more evacuation information and can be reached at (605) 673-8176.
Custer County Search and Rescue is reportedly helping with evacuations, according to the county’s emergency management office.
Custer State Park and roads in the park are expected to be closed now through at least Friday, Dec. 15.
The American Red Cross said it would open an emergency shelter for those displaced by the fire at the Hermosa School, 11 4th St. in Hermosa.
Hermosa area rancher Rick Fox said Wednesday morning the fire remains on the west side of 79 and is mostly burning in the forest but depending on the direction of the wind and the progress made in fighting the fire, it could be out of the trees and onto the prairie east of the trees soon.
The wind blew hard during the night of Dec. 12 and morning of Dec. 13, which pushed the fire south and east, Fox said.
Some of Fox’s neighbor’s pasture cattle within a mile of the current fire. He said his horses are saddled and ready to go gather the cattle if he gets the call from the neighbors seeking help.
-Eatherton is a freelance writer from Beaulah, Wyo. When she’s not writing, she’s riding her horse or playing with her grandson. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.