- Associated Press - Sunday, December 25, 2016

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) - Ranchers and farmers affected by a devastating October wildfire to the Cottonwood area of southwestern South Dakota are starting to receive money from a relief fund.

The Cottonwood fire scorched 65 square miles of land between Interstate 90 and U.S. Highway 14 east of Wall. Losses included huge swaths of grazing land, more than 300 head of cattle, 6,000 bales of hay, 200 miles of fence, and some barns, corrals and water tanks.

The disaster also brought out the best in people.

This week, Philip Charities announced it would begin distributing $125,000 from money raised from hundreds of donations to benefit victims of the fire. Disbursements will be made according to criteria established by Philip Charities and based on losses of fences and grazing land, the Rapid City Journal reported (https://bit.ly/2i1ODJo).

The fund was bolstered recently with a joint $15,000 donation from First Interstate Bank and The First Interstate Bank Foundation. Brett Blasius, president of the bank’s branches in Wall and New Underwood, said in a news release that the bank followed the community’s lead.

“I’m so grateful to live in a community where neighbors band together to help each other out,” Blasius said.

Philip-area rancher John Neumann said about 90 percent of his land was burned. He lost about 600 bales and 11 miles of fence. So far, he’s received about 300 donated bales and some donated fencing material that helped him rebuild 3 miles of fence. He expects to complete the rest in the spring.

Neumann said he expects to pull through if Mother Nature continues to cooperate.

“It should come back really well if it rains and we get some snow this winter,” Neumann said. “It should be really good, actually.”

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Information from: Rapid City Journal, https://www.rapidcityjournal.com


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