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Crew Holds Back Wildfire at Edge of Black Hills Town

July 01, 2002|From Associated Press

DEADWOOD, S.D. -- Firefighters battled a wildfire Sunday that had burned to the ridge above this Black Hills gambling town and forced thousands of residents and tourists to evacuate.

The 4,500-acre blaze was about 35% contained early Sunday, and officials praised a relatively small crew of about 200 firefighters for saving the historic gold mining town.

"When I first drove in here, I thought we were going to lose a lot of Deadwood, and it's because of you, we didn't," fire coordinator Joe Lowe said to a group of firefighters Sunday morning.

Wind drove the fire back toward town Sunday afternoon, but its path toward homes was blocked by land that had already burned, Lowe said.

"We're catching it as it approaches the back of the houses," Lowe said.

A bulldozer line from the south end of town to its northeast end was nearly complete, but whether it would hold the fire was uncertain, Lowe said.

The fire burned two homes and six other buildings, and forced 1,380 residents and countless tourists to flee.

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