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Winds Fan West River Wildfires and Force Evacuations

High winds are fanning wildfires around the Black Hills area. Crews have responded to sixteen reported fires since this morning.

The biggest, called the Fork Fire, is burning on about 100 acres near Custer and has forced the evacuation of a sub-division located on Renegade Pass Road.   The fire is zero percent contained.  A separate, but smaller fire is also threatening homes in the Custer area at the same time.  The North Pole Road near Custer is closed to general traffic from Highway 16 to the Custer Limestone Road.

The Thrall Fire is also burning in the area of Johnson Siding east of Pactola Lake on about two acres.  The smoke plume from this fire is visible in Rapid City.  The public is asked to stay off nearby roads and give crews room they need to work.

Wildfire officials are asking the public to be very careful with machinery and anything that could cause sparks.  This morning National Weather Service in Rapid City recorded a wind gust of 78 miles per hour.   Fire officials say power lines blown down by the high wind may have sparked some of the fires.   Forecasters say the winds should die down this evening- that may help crews battle the flames.