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Region 23 fire map

A USGS thermal imaging map shows the areas affected by two fires burning in the Pine Ridge region. Red indicates actively burning, yellow is within the last 12 hours and black in the last 24 hours. The map can be viewed at http://www.geomac.gov/viewer/viewer.shtml

The Region 23 complex fires in Dawes and Sioux counties have burned more than 68,689 acres, and firefighters are preparing for red flag conditions over the next three days, according to officials from the U.S. Forest Service Incident Management Team.

The West Ash Fire, southwest of Chadron, is the larger of the two fires, with an estimated 44,354 acres burned. The Douthit Fire, northwest of Crawford, had burned 24,335 acres by Wednesday evening, a news release said.

Containment of both fires is estimated at 10 percent, and evacuations around the West Ash Fire ordered late last night of Chadron State Park, Table Road, Country Club and Old Country Club Roads and Deadhorse Road remain in effect. Evacuation of the Hudson Meng Bison Kill Site and areas between Sand Creek Road and Rim Rock Road, in the vicinity of the Douthit Fire also continue.

An estimated 102 residences and 152 people had been evacuated, an earllier release said. That doesn't include vacationers evacuated from Chadron State Park, nor the students and staff at Pine Ridge Job Corps.

The fire has not crossed Highway 385 to the east, and the highway remains open with one way traffic with a pilot car from Mile Marker 160 to 167.

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Both fires started from lightning Tuesday and are burning in rugged, barely accessible terrain heavily stocked with ponderosa pine and dry grasses. Volunteer Fire Departments from Harrison, Crawford and Chadron led the initial attack on the fires, a number of other local VFDs and law enforcement officials, along with the Forest Service, Nebraska Emergency Management Agency, Nebraska National Guard, and Nebraska Forest Service are participating in fighting the fires.

Conditions for fighting the fire are not expected to be favorable over the next three days, the news release said. Temperatures, which were over 100 degrees Wednesday but slightly cooler Thursday, will remain high, and there is potential for high wind.

The situation is complicated by another fire burning to the north and east of Chadron, in the Metcalf Wilderness area near Hay Springs. That fire started Wednesday, and is being handled by volunteers from Hay Springs, Rushville and other area communities.

Fires also charred large swaths in Box Butte County, farther south, on Tuesday and Wednesday, but those fires affected largely grass and crop land.

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