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Wildfire burns at least 600 acres near Oglala

The fire west of Oglala, South Dakota, as of Tuesday night.
Oglala Sioux Tribe Emergency Management
The fire west of Oglala, South Dakota, as of Tuesday night.

A wildfire west of Oglala, South Dakota, has burned up at least 600 acres since it started Tuesday afternoon.

The fire began near Prairie Wind Casino around 6 p.m. and moved southeast. The exact cause is not known.

Darren Clabo, the state fire meteorologist, said weather conditions Tuesday, with 40 mile-per-hour winds, high temperatures and low humidity, most likely contributed to the fire.

"Those are classic critical fire weather conditions when we have conditions like that," he said. "With cured fuels, we do expect big fire growth, and that's exactly what we saw yesterday."

Six homes in the path of the fire were evacuated, though residents were allowed to return home by Tuesday night. No structural damages have been reported.

Kevin Killer, president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, said shelters were opened for people displaced by the fire.

"We did open up two community action service centers, the Wakpamni Community Service Center and the Oglala Community Service Center, for those that were displaced," he said. "There were some others that probably were also evacuated not because of the fire coming their way, but just the heavy smoke."

A road, BIA 41, was also closed for a time but has since been reopened.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs has called on local, state and federal groups for help. Two air tankers were dispatched to the area.

Killer said local groups from the tribe, such as the Emergency Management Department, focused on structural protection near the fire while the BIA Branch of Wildland Fire Management focused on putting out the fire.

"There were even some locals coming in with ranchers who had water," Killer said.

He added that fire crews made progress containing the fire Tuesday night.

Clabo warned about the importance of being fire-aware, especially during hot, dry parts of the summer.

"I think folks have been lulled a little bit with the precipitation that we've gotten this spring, and then this intense heat that we've seen over the last two weeks has really allowed the fuels to cure and be receptive to fire," he said.

Jordan is a senior English and journalism major at SDSU in Brookings. She is from De Smet, South Dakota. She is based out of the Sioux Falls studio.