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Official: Most Intense Black Hills Fire, Ever

July 8, 2007, 8:48 PM by Matthew Holsen

Official: Most Intense Black Hills Fire, Ever

A deadly wildland fire burning in western South Dakota that began as a single lightning strike grew to more than 9 square miles Monday morning. Officials are calling it the most intense fire that's ever burned in the Black Hills. 

The Alabaugh Fire is located in extreme southwest South Dakota, about 5 miles southwest of Hot Springs. It exploded in size this weekend, fueled by dry land, and strong winds. The flames are burning over rough terrain, which makes controlling the fire difficult. A total of 268 people are currently working to contain the flames. 

It all began Saturday night as the fire started as just a few hundred acres of down and dead fuels from the forest floor, but soon the fire grew into what is now being called one of the most intense fires in South Dakota history, charring nearly 4,900 acres. 

The fire’s incident commander, Joe Lowe says, “This is a very dangerous fire. It burns with a vengeance.” 

Hot Springs resident, Joyce Farrell, says, “It’s very scary, but it’s very dry, and we knew that the potential was there and it's a catastrophe.” 

Officials are looking to extinguish the flames any way possible. Lowe says, “We're starting to get a lot of resources in on this fire, and we're going to take every opportunity the weather gives us to get a handle on this fire.” 

But some are looking past the plumes of smoke for an answer and some help. Farrell says, “Hey, just say a prayer for all of us down here.” 

Although firefighters have been plagued by thunder and lightning, officials say they'll work until the fire is contained. Lowe says, “It’s going to be a constant battle like that, we're going to gain ground, lose ground, and then finally we're going to win.” 

Governor Rounds was in the area Sunday and talked with firefighters, thanking them for their hard work. The latest report is the fire is 20 percent contained. Fire crews will be busy for quite some time. Full containment isn't expected until July 12th.

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