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Wildfire Spurs Evacuation in S.D.'s Black Hills

June 30, 2002|From Associated Press

DEADWOOD, S.D. — Thousands of people fled this Black Hills gambling town Saturday because of a growing wildfire, though by nightfall the main fire had passed without damaging structures, fire officials said.

In North Dakota, several grass fires flared up Saturday, including a 20,000-acre blaze that burned about 30 buildings and dozens of vehicles in a town of 15 residents, authorities said. The townspeople were all safe and accounted for.

"There is no more Shields," Sioux County Sheriff Frank Landeis said of the North Dakota town. "All that's left is one house and the bar."

The fire in Deadwood, a 1,380-resident gambling town that attracts thousands of tourists to its casinos in the summer months, was 700 acres and growing, said Steve Hasenorhl of the South Dakota Wildlands Fire Suppression Division.

Deadwood is about 40 miles northwest of Rapid City and is home to about 80 casinos.

"The fire is not laying down at all," said Scott Randolph, a spokesman for the Lawrence County Department of Emergency Management. "It remains a very, very dangerous fire."

The fire was about three miles long and half a mile wide, he said.

Gov. William Janklow issued the evacuation order after the fire jumped a highway on the outskirts of town.

Later Saturday, officials ordered evacuations for a handful of residents in outlying areas.

Authorities also said the Deadwood hospital moved its three patients to the hospital in nearby Spearfish.

Smoke from the fire could be seen 100 miles away. A huge column of smoke was drifting over Bear Butte and Sturgis.

Hasenorhl said windy, hot conditions in the northern Black Hills were making the situation worse; temperatures in the region soared Saturday to near 110 degrees.

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