Mount Rushmore Closed, Hundreds Evacuated Due to South Dakota Wildfires

by Emily Morgan

Several wildfires in South Dakota have prompted hundreds of people’s evacuations and the closure of Mount Rushmore. According to authorities, three wildfires that started Monday morning in the Black Hills of South Dakota have forced more than 400 people to evacuate their homes in the northwest part of Rapid City, South Dakota. 

The Schroeder Fire broke out on Monday morning just west of the city. It burned 1,900 acres by nightfall, incident commander Rob Powell said in an interview with the Rapid City Journal. The fire has destroyed numerous outbuildings and at least one home, officials said.

The local Sheriff’s Department stated that it was a “very active and dangerous scene.” Nearly 250 firefighters battled the fires amid windy conditions. Gusts of wind averaged around 50 mph to 72 mph. 

Mount Rushmore Remains Closed Through Wednesday

One of the two active fires in the southwest part of Rapid City, covered an estimated 75 acres. The second covered 20 acres. As a result, the National Park Service announced at 2 p.m. local time that Mount Rushmore would be closed through Wednesday.

Officials have dubbed the two fires in the area as the 244 Fire and the Keystone Fire. The 244 Fire is estimated to be around 75 acres, according to the last update on Monday. The blaze is located about 1.5 miles southwest of Keystone, according to the website.

On Monday night, firefighters reduced the Keystone Fire from 30 acres to 15 acres. “Fire officials request that people from the public to please stay away from the area and allow firefighters to do their work,” the website said.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem and Rep. Dusty Johnson traveled to Rapid City to assess the burn. On Twitter, Johnson wrote that FEMA would be helping to control and put out the fires. 

“South Dakotans, stay vigilant and keep up with alerts in case your area needs to evacuate while our first responders fight to get this fire under control,” he wrote.

No civilian injuries have been reported, and the cause of the blaze is still under investigation. Currently, the fires are threatening no businesses, the governor revealed in a news conference.

“I do want to remind everybody that this is an incredibly fluid situation,” she said. “That these winds are a major factor and that as they shift and change and we get those gusts, that’s when they can jump. We’re going to have to stay pretty mobile.”