S.D. Wildfire

Mount Rushmore, Rapid City threatened as 400 forced to evacuate

Wildfires are becoming more common, but they’ve usually stuck to the summer. Seeing one in a new region, during a new season, makes the climate crisis argument more alarming–if that’s indeed the cause. FEMA authorized the use of federal funds to fight the most recent major U.S. wildfire Monday, which threatened one of the country’s most famous national monuments at Mount Rushmore.

The funds are intended to help with firefighting costs for the Schroeder Fire burning in Pennington County, South Dakota near Rapid City.

FEMA Acting Regional Administrator Nancy Dragani approved the state’s request for a federal Fire Management Assistance Grant (FMAG) after receiving the request Monday afternoon and determining “that the fire threatened such destruction as would constitute a major disaster.”At the time of the request, the Schroeder Fire was threatening more than 300 homes, which were under an evacuation order. Power lines in the area are also being threatened. The first fire started Monday and was joined by multiple offshoots, which have collectively burned at least 2,000 acres. As of Thursday morning, fire crews have increased containment of the largest fire in the Nemo, South Dakota, area to 47%, according to the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office. Dubbed the Schroeder Road fire, the blaze has burned nearly 3.4 square miles.

The group of fires have been described as a “wind-driven event”:

With California as the most publicized “problem area”, that state often serves as a bellwether for wildfire activism. The state struggles every year with rising cases, despite taking great strides in prevention. Most recently, the PG&E saga played out in the Golden State last summer; this not only identified corporate negligence as a singular issue in the wildfire debate, but also helped push the implementation of more defense planes and regular power line maintenance.

Elsewhere, major wildfires have triggered national emergencies in Arizona (2019’s “Museum Fire” outside Flagstaff), Alabama, Texas, and Oregon over the last five years. Alaska, much of which is wilderness, sees the most acreage hit by wildfires annually, recording nearly 2.5 million in 2019, according to the NIFC (National Interagency Fire Center). However, the number of specific fires is easily highest in California, with over 8,000 incidents in 2019 (216,000 of which are attributed to manmade causes).

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