A large wildfire in South Dakota on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation has been partially contained, a tribal official said Monday.
Johnelle Leingang, the tribal chairman’s executive secretary and a member of the tribe’s emergency response team, told the Bismarck Tribune the fire that started near Wakpala, in north-central South Dakota, was “fairly well” contained by Monday afternoon.
About 4.5 square miles had burned, Leingang said. She added that a small blaze was still on fire and a crew was working on a smoldering area.
About a dozen agencies assisted with the firefighting effort, Leingang said. A Red Cross team was dispatched from Rapid City to help responders.
It wasn’t immediately clear what started the fire, which began early Monday morning, according to Leingang. Officials initially thought a coal train could have sparked it, the newspaper reported. But Standing Rock Emergency Manager Elliott Ward said the fire started too far north of the tracks for that to be likely because the wind was blowing from the west.
The blaze was the second in as many days on the reservation that straddles the Dakotas.
On Sunday, three homes and a church were destroyed in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, and the 875 residents were evacuated from their homes when electrical poles were knocked down. Most were back in their homes Monday morning, with only about two dozen families still displaced, KXMB-TV reported.
Several hay bales caught fire north of Cannon Ball on Saturday night, and the flames spread into town Sunday when winds gusted up to 60 mph, Ward told the newspaper. About 150 firefighters responded to the fire that scorched nearly 2 ½ square miles.
“After they all got here, they knocked it down pretty good,” Ward said.
Classes were canceled Monday at schools in Cannon Ball and nearby Solen.
Grass fires in other parts of the Dakotas destroyed at least one home and shut down highways Sunday, as wind gusts surpassed 50 mph and several cities in the two states set hot weather records in the 90s. Firefighters attributed the fires to sparks from passing trains and hot farm equipment. The Sunday fires were contained and no injuries were reported.
A blaze in Dickey and LaMoure counties blackened about 5 square miles, Dickey County Emergency Manager Charlie Russell told the American News. Firefighters in Stutsman County responded to nearly a dozen fires Sunday afternoon, and a blaze north of Jamestown destroyed one home and damaged several others, Stutsman County Emergency Manager Jerry Bergquist told KQDJ radio.
Fires temporarily shut down stretches of U.S. Highway 83 and Interstate 29 in North Dakota and U.S. Highway 14 in South Dakota.
SOURCE: The Associated Press