By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
The Schroeder wildfire in South Dakota has grown slightly, inching closer to Rapid City, but firefighters have a containment line around nearly half of the blaze.
The fire affected 2,200 acres but was at a 47% containment rate of as Thursday, three days after it was first discovered, according to fire tracking website InciWeb.
Around 170 people were fighting the fire, including the Rocky Mountain Blue Team, an emergency management team, according to spokesman Chris Zoller, who spoke during a Thursday morning briefing.
“The firefighters are getting a great handle on doing mop-up operations, they’re cleaning up fuels along the edge of the line, they’re putting water down where they have to,” Zoller said.
On Thursday, firefighters planned to continue protecting structures throughout the fire area and constructing and improving fire lines on the northern and southern edges of the fire perimeter, Zoller said.
Smoke and flames may be visible as the fire consumes unburned fuels within its interior, which is normal and expected.
However, red flag warnings were in effect in the area due to hot, dry and windy conditions. Wind gusts of 25 to 30 mph were expected Thursday.
Crews planned to watch for changing fire conditions as the wind shifted directions on Thursday.
The fuels in the area (timber and dead grass) are dry, which creates an ideal condition for rapid fire growth, Zoller said.
However, Zoller didn’t seem too worried about the red flag warning.
“We’re going to be nowhere near what we were Monday as far as the elevated fire danger,” he said. “We’re right in the very bottom of that red flag warning criteria.”
Officials warned people in the area to take extra care in order to prevent igniting a wildfire while recreating outdoors, such as avoiding parking over tall grasses, ensuring tools and vehicles are equipped with spark arresters and being careful with campfires and other ignition sources.
Mount Rushmore was closed to visitors on Tuesday and Wednesday, but reopened on Thursday. However, the Iron Mountain Road near the monument was closed to traffic on Thursday to allow firefighters to continue mop-up operations.
South Dakota Gov. Krisi Noem has declared a state of emergency in the face of the fire. Around 400 to 500 homes in the area were evacuated.