PIEDMONT - The Eastridge Fire near Exit 48 of Interstate 90 is burning among homes on the east side, about eight miles northwest of Rapid City near the community of Piedmont. One house on Eastridge Road has been burned. Firefighters were not able to save the structure because of danger from a venting propane tank.
Officials are evacuating homes in three areas, Eastridge, Hill Road and the area south of Truman Road.
The blaze was burning close to structures, and aircraft were dropping water and slurry in the effort to halt the fire on the eve of a three-day heat wave.
The Highway Patrol was called out to control traffic, which was backing up on I-90 as onlookers watched the fire and took pictures.
Gov. Mike Rounds is making his way to the scene to assess the situation and is accompanied by Tom Dravland, Secretary of the Department of Public Safety.
As of 8 p.m. Thursday, the size of the fire was estimated at more than 100 acres.
An incident command post was established on Quaal Road, across I-90 from Mid-State Camper Sales, then moved to the Stagebarn Elementary School.
A Type I incident management team has been ordered to fight the fire, but national resources are scarce and difficult to obtain, according ot a news release from the Northern Great Plains Interagency Dispatch Center. South Dakota's chief firefighter, Joe Lowe, is on the scene.
A Type II fire team from the Rocky Mountain region has been ordered and is en route.
Incident commander Jay Kurth is fighting to protect private property as the fire burns among homes and other structures. Fire forces on scene include units from the Black Hills National Forest, the State of South Dakota, numerous volunteer fire departments and other state and federal agencies.
Heavy airtanker number 44 flying out of Rapid City airport is dropping retardant on the fire, as are single engine air tankers.
Crews and equipment are moving from across the Black Hills to fight this priority fire.
Other fire news:
Two fire injuries on smaller fires in the northern Black Hills have resulted in firefighters being taken to hospital. One firefighter suffered from severe heat exhaustion and was taken by ambulance to a hospital. Another, a smoke jumper, was injured jumping on a small fire and was flown to Rapid City for treatment.
Meanwhile, the West Pass Creek Fire was about 60 percent contained The fire burned about 600 acres south of Jewel Cave in the Southern Hills Wednesday and Thursday. Forest Service Road 272 (West Pass Creek Road) is closed from the junction with Forest Service Road 273.
A handful of other new fire incidents reported Thursday are primarily the result of Wednesday's dry lightning and thunderstorms. Specifically,the Gobbler Knob fire, located south of Rapid City and west of S.D. Highway 79 and east of U.S. Highway 16 and south of the spring creek road is estimated at 23.7 acres. Local and state resources are on site.
Also, crews battled a grass fire Thursday north of S.D. Highway 44 on the Monty Whitcher ranch near Scenic and on the edge of the southwestern corner of Badlands National Park's Sage Creek Wilderness Area. The fire, size unknown, burned primarily on private land. Further details were not available, but unofficial reports indicate crews were gaining on the blaze. The region is under a fire weather watch through the weekend.
For updated information on the fires, watch this spot, the Rapid City Journal's Wildfire Blog on the Journal home page and www.inciweb.org. For photos of the fire near Piedmont, see Friday's Rapid City Journal.