Custer State Park Fire now 47,000 acres, Highway 79 reopened, free trucking for evac needs
Editor’s note: This story is being updated regularly.
A fire that broke out early Monday morning in Custer State Park near Legion Lake spread to over 35,000 acres by Tuesday night.
By Wednesday evening, park officials are reporting more than 47,000 acres burned, and the fire is 10 percent contained.
Custer State Park Resource Program Managers are currently in the process of evaluating the status of the fire. As of Wednesday morning, highway 79 was closed between Hot Springs and Hermosa for a portion of Wednesday, but has reopened as of Wednesday noon.
“Due to the rapid growth of the fire Tuesday night and how quickly it spread through the south, southeast end of the park, buffalo along with other wildlife were in danger, trying to move out of the path of the fire. At this time, we do not know of any animal casualties,” park officials reported on Facebook.
Hay needed is in need at Custer State Park for bison affected by fire. More information is available at https://www.parkswildlifefoundation.org/donate.aspx
The official cause of the fire remains under investigation, but original reports listed a power line as the potential cause. The blaze started near the intersection of U.S. Highway 16A and S.D. Highway 87 North early Monday morning.
Jade Nixon posted contact information for temporary free trucking for ranchers evacuating or hauling in feed, water or other necessities:
Moncur-Nixon trucking 1-605-569-1755
NK Barker cattle Co 1-605-645-7054
klapperich trucking 1-605-415-2526
“Would be willing to haul any livestock, hay, or water free of charge for local ranchers in need,” said the post.
The Legion Lake Fire has rapidly moved east of Custer State Park, forcing evacuations, and making fire-fighting difficult. Smoky conditions are making the exact location of the fire difficult, and park officials believe spot fires are popping up within a half mile of the fire flank.
The fire moved out of the Custer State Park boundary, and Custer County Sheriff’s Office evacuations included Cobb, Downen, Dry Creek and LH roads, along with Buffalo Gap and Fairburn. Buffalo Gap and Fairburn have been lifted.
Firefighters have worked to protect structures including the popular Blue Bell Lodge, Legion Lake Lodge, and the State Game Lodge, but all remain threatened. Five homes in the park have been evacuated and one unused building was burned down. No one has been injured.
Custer County Dispatch has more evacuation information and can be reached at 605-673-8176.
Custer County Search and Rescue is reportedly helping with evacuations, according to the county’s emergency management office.
The Central States Fairgrounds in Rapid City announced that evacuated horses were welcome there. Contact them at 605-355-3861 for more information.
Custer State Park and roads in the park are expected to be closed now through at least Friday, Dec. 15.
The American Red Cross said it would open an emergency shelter for those displaced by the fire at the Hermosa School, 11 Fourth Street in Hermosa.