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July 24, 2012 06:00 PM

Longhorn Fires Burn Nearly 40,000 Acres

spring creek, sd

Fire crews working the Longhorn Complex fires say the next few days will be critical to their success.

The three fires on the Rosebud Reservation have scorched nearly 40,000 acres and forced the evacuation of the village of Spring Creek.

What started as a series of different fires on the Rosebud Indian Reservation has turned into a nearly 40,000 acre behemoth.

"The fires have grown together and we're managing it now as one large fire complex," incident commander trainee Shane DelGrosso said.

With temperatures on Tuesday well above 100 degrees, fire crews are having a tough time getting good containment on the blaze.

"Today, with the spotting, any new ember that falls outside the line will start a new fire.  We're at 100 percent probability for new ignition," DelGrosso said.

The South Crazy Horse Fire, burning just north of Spring Creek, is one of the most active parts of the complex and crews have been attacking it with helicopters and hand crews all day.

The village was evacuated on Saturday in a flurry after the winds shifted.

"Fire management took over the fire and told us we had 10 minutes to leave and we were out of there," Spring Creek community chairperson Donna Hollow Horn Bear said.

Many Spring Creek residents are staying at a Red Cross shelter that's been set up in St. Francis.

"We heard that we're for sure not going home today.  We're really anxious to go home," Hollow Horn Bear said.

Fire crews are working hard to make sure that happens.

"Last night, we had some successful operations and if we can hold onto it today, we're going to be evaluating tomorrow at 11 o'clock the possibility of letting those people back into their homes," DelGrosso said.

Mother Nature isn't helping firefighters much.  Little-to-no rain is expected Tuesday night despite a cold front moving through the area.

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