- Associated Press - Thursday, October 20, 2016

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard has declared an emergency disaster in southwestern Jackson County after a prairie fire burned 64 square miles of grassland and killed scores of livestock.

The state will cover 90 percent of non-federal fire response costs, such as fuel and aircraft expenses, Daugaard said Thursday, two days after he flew over the area affected by the Cottonwood Fire. About 300 firefighters from 10 western counties fought the blaze at its peak, which is now fully contained.

The fire began Sunday afternoon east of Rapid City in the Wall and Cottonwood areas. It scorched private land, state land and part of the Buffalo Gap National Grassland, destroying numerous rural buildings, killing 137 farm animals and injuring many more. No people were hurt.

The wildfire is the largest the state has had in the month of October, according to South Dakota Wildland Fire Deputy Director Jim Strain.

“This prairie fire is the most destructive I have observed for fence loss, cattle loss, hay loss and pasture loss in my 27-year career,” he said.

Authorities said the fire was caused by a human, but they’re still investigating how it started.

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