SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Just as firefighters had contained about 25 percent of the wildfires cutting through the Rosebud Indian Reservation in south-central South Dakota, a lightning strike started another blaze, effectively doubling the battleground.
Dozens of residents remained evacuated Monday as authorities looked hopefully at weather forecasts predicting thunderstorms Monday and Tuesday nights.
But Rocky Mountain Area Incident Commander Joe Lowe said the weather so far hasn't been cooperating. The area saw rain over the weekend, but the "thunderstorms come in and just miss us by about four or five miles," he told a gathering of residents and officials Monday at a Rosebud Sioux Tribe meeting broadcast on the web.
So far, no homes have been hit and no injuries reported. But some residents aren't sure whether they've lost pets or cattle in the blazes, which began late last week.
Authorities estimated that various fires cover at least 7,500 acres — or more than 11 square miles — on the reservation. That's smaller than the nearly 16-square-mile Myrtle fire that's burning farther west in the Black Hills. Authorities on Monday said that blaze was about 40 percent contained — thanks, in part, to weekend rainfall.
Shane Del Grosso, a fire behavior analyst, told Rosebud residents that the reservation fires were fueled in part by the recent drought. Flames were 8 to 9 feet high. Where there's brush, some flames soared past 20 feet, he said.