North Dakota tourist town evacuated because of wildfire
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Firefighters have stopped a wildfire from spreading in the western North Dakota tourist town of Medora, where its 100 residents were forced to evacuate, officials said.
There were no immediate reports of injuries or damaged structures in the community, which is on the doorstep of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Crews spared the Burning Hills Amphitheatre, home to the Medora Musical.
The blaze, which has consumed about 15 square miles (38 square kilometers), started a few miles southwest of the city Thursday, with the wind blowing the flames toward the community, according to Misty Hayes, Medora district ranger for the Little Missouri National Grassland.
Officials said Thursday night that crews had stopped the blaze from spreading, the Bismarck Tribune reported.
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum declared a statewide fire emergency Thursday because of drought conditions.
Burgum said the North Dakota National Guard would deploy two Black Hawk helicopters to assist in battling the Medora blaze. Multiple agencies responded to the fire. A 45-mile (72-kilometer) stretch of Interstate 94, from Belfield to Beach, was temporarily closed but reopened Thursday night.
The state has seen a growing number of wildfires with extreme drought conditions across the state. Burgum had placed the National Guard on standby earlier Thursday.
The fire began shortly before 1:30 p.m. local time, according to Billings County Chief Deputy Maj. Dean Wyckoff.
“It was an electrical line that sagged and arced and started the fire,” he said.
The National Drought Mitigation Center report shows nearly half the state is seeing drought conditions. The North Dakota Forest Service has tracked than 140 wildfires that have burned over 46 square miles (120 square kilometers).
In South Dakota, a wildfire threatened homes in Pennington County this week forcing residents in more than 400 houses to evacuate. The Sheriff’s Office said Thursday most evacuations have been lifted in the Nemo area.
Mount Rushmore National Memorial reopened Thursday after it was closed because of the spreading wildfire.