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Rankin Fire in Wind Cave now at 1,000 acres
 Chris Huber  / 

Fire crews continued Wednesday to battle a wildfire that was caused by lightning Monday afternoon in Wind Cave National Park.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the Rankin Fire in Wind Cave was estimated to have burned 1,000 acres, or approximately 1.5 square miles. The fire was still at zero percent containment Wednesday evening, and the number of acres burned was expected to grow.

The fire was first reported at 1:57 p.m. Monday near the northern border of Wind Cave National Park, where it meets Custer State Park along Highway 89.

The fire is burning in steep, rocky terrain fueled by grass and timber.

A Type III incident management team has been overseeing the work of approximately 85 firefighters and an aerial attack, but a Type II team was set to take over command Thursday morning.

Crews worked throughout Tuesday night burning out the southern portion of the fire, according to Great Plains Fire Dispatch. On Wednesday, lines on the east and west boundaries of the fire were dug, according to Wind Cave public information officer Tom Farrell. 

Farrell said firefighters had the support of a heavy air tanker and a South Dakota National Guard helicopter during Wednesday's attack of the fire.

“September and October are historically when we have the biggest fires in the park,” Park Superintendent Vidal Dávila said in a news release. “We encourage everyone to be extra cautious with their outdoor activities due to the hot and dry conditions we are experiencing.”

As of WEdnesday the only closures were the northern segment of NPS 5 and all backcountry hiking trails north of Wind Cave Canyon. The park visitor center remained open with cave tours leaving from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. throughout the day.

According to Great Plains Fire Information, lightning accounted for at least seven fires on Tuesday. The largest of those was the Coffee Fire near Montrose, Neb., which burned 750 acres; a fire near Badlands National Park burned more than 150 acres. All seven of those fires have been contained. 

Supreme Court upholds rulings in a Bijou Hills drainage dispute

PIERRE | An upstream landowner who said his basement flooded and his haying and calving were damaged the year after a neighboring farm put drain tile on its property won a victory in the South Dakota Supreme Court last week.

The five justices ruled unanimously for Albert Delany. He filed a drainage complaint in Brule County claiming Surat Farms LLC partially blocked an intermittent watercourse.

The properties are on opposite sides of County Road 352 near the Bijou Hills area. A culvert drains from Delany’s land onto land owned by Surat Farms.

Surat Farms contracted in 2013 for a drainage system with a subsurface inlet just beyond where the culvert empties onto its land. Delany claimed in 2014 that water began entering his basement. The inlet stood 15 inches higher than the ground in its natural state.

Delany filed a complaint against Surat Farms and an upstream landowner. A Brule County drainage official visited Delany’s property and saw cattails, reeds, dead brush and trees that she believed might block the flow.

Delany cleared up the area, but still had water backing up, according to Justice Steven Zinter. Delany filed a second complaint against Surat Farms.

"The Brule County Board of Commissioners held a hearing and found that Surat impermissibly altered the watercourse," Justice Steven Zinter wrote.

The justice said Circuit Judge Bruce Anderson didn’t err when he affirmed the county board’s decision. Among steps Judge Anderson took was visiting the site and considering evidence from both sides.

“The court found that the soil elevation near the drain tile inlet was acting as a dam, backing up water onto Delany’s land,” Zinter wrote.

He continued: “The court also found that the minimal differences in elevation along the watercourse meant that even a minor backup of water could significantly impact an upstream landowner.

“Finally,” Zinter added, “the court found Delany credible when he testified that the backed-up water had rendered portions of his land unsuitable for calving and haying.”

The justice said Surat’s evidence was “far from compelling. The aerial photographs indicated that the watercourse flowed from the culvert in years prior to 2013, but the image from 2015 shows the damming complained of by Delany.”

Zinter said the county board and the circuit court “only ordered enforcement of the drainage easement” that Delany held for the watercourse across Surat’s land.

“This was appropriate injunctive relief,” Zinter wrote.

Council to hear more on possible referendum over tax increase


The Rapid City Council will once again discuss the issue of having a 1 percent property tax increase referred to a public vote at its next meeting on Monday.

During the Legal and Finance meeting Wednesday, Ward 2 Alderman Steve Laurenti introduced a resolution of support for an initiated measure to put the Consumer Price Index property tax increase to a public vote. The measure was sent to the council without a recommendation on a 5-0 vote.

The resolution introduced by Laurenti is only for support of the idea, and citizens would still have to gather the required signatures to place it on the ballot.  

The issue started during a Sept. 5 city council meeting where a 1 percent increase in property taxes by taking Consumer Price Index Increase was approved in a 5-4 decision.

It was then Laurenti first voiced his support on a public vote for the city taking CPI after Tonchi Weaver, of Citizens for Liberty, urged the council to refer the decision to a referendum.

By state law, the city can raise the overall property tax dollar amount requested from Rapid Citians — and the resultant tax levy — only by a value equal to the percent of growth in the city’s property valuations and the level of inflation, called the Consumer Price Index. This year's CPI rose 1 percent. 

The city is set to collect about $161,405 in additional funds at an added cost to taxpayers of approximately $3.20 per $100,000 of property valuation from the CPI increase. An election on the issue would cost $60,000, according to City Finance Director Pauline Sumption.

During the meeting on Wednesday, Laurenti said elected officials should support citizens who want to bring problems they see in government to a public vote.

"If we don't allow that, I think we are going to have some serious problems," he said. 

Alderman Chad Lewis made the motion to send the resolution to the council without recommendation because he said there would be plenty of discussion on the issue during the upcoming council meeting.

Lewis voted in favor of taking CPI at the Sept. 5 meeting, along with council members Laura Armstrong, Lisa Modrick, Darla Drew and Ritchie Nordstom. Amanda Scott, Becky Drury, Laurenti and Jason Salamun voted against taking the increase. Alderman John Roberts did not arrive at the meeting until after the vote was taken.

Standoff ends with empty house, police searching for robbery suspect
 Candy DenOuden  / 

Rapid City police are searching for a man they say robbed a drug store Wednesday morning. 

Police identified the man as 29-year-old Nick Perry, of Rapid City.

"Perry should be considered dangerous, and should not be approached," the department said in a news release. 

After authorities learned that Perry might be in a home in the 1500 block of Degeest Drive, a Special Response Team was deployed to the area Wednesday afternoon. The team remained on the scene for several hours, finally entering the home around 8 p.m. 

"Suspect not inside," Rapid City police tweeted after a search came up empty. "Always a reality in our line of work. We will make sure he is held accountable for his actions."

Police say Perry robbed Boyd's Drug Mart on East St. Patrick Street around 9:30 a.m. Wednesday with a "blunt object" and assaulted an employee, who suffered minor injuries. 

Earlier in the day, Robbinsdale Elementary and South Middle School were placed on secure status for about 30 minutes as a precaution.

Two other schools, Valley View Elementary and East Middle School, were also placed on secure status Wednesday afternoon due to "an active law enforcement event," the Rapid City school district said. 

Buses ran as usual when the schools let out for the day, but students at the two schools still on secure status were not allowed to walk or bike home; they had to be picked up by a parent or guardian.

School and law enforcement officials said students weren't in any danger. "We simply want to prevent children wandering into an active law enforcement scene," said a statement from the school posted to its Facebook page.

Anyone with information on Perry's whereabouts is asked to call 394-4131.

Kyle man killed in head-on collision
 Tiffany Tan  / 

A 33-year-old man was killed in a two-vehicle accident near Kyle on Tuesday afternoon. 

Authorities identified the man as Hans James Christensen of Kyle. Christensen was traveling west on BIA Highway 2 around 4:40 p.m. when, for an unknown reason, his Lincoln Navigator crossed the center line, according to Kevin Rascher, highway safety trooper with the Oglala Sioux Tribe Department of Public Safety.

The vehicle collided head-on with a Ford F-350 driven by Sherman Paul Salisbury.

Salisbury told police he tried to steer his pickup into a ditch but decided not to because it appeared too steep, Rascher said. 

Salisbury, 34, of Oklahoma, and two other passengers in his pickup were taken to Bennett County Hospital in Martin, where they were treated for injuries including fractures and lacerations.

Christensen was a member of the U.S. Marines, the Oglala Sioux Tribe said in a social media post about his death.