- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 13, 2017

CUSTER, S.D. (AP) - The Latest on a wildfire at Custer State Park in South Dakota’s Black Hills (all times local):

7 p.m.

A wildfire in western South Dakota has spread, but officials don’t anticipate another night of rapid expansion of the blaze.

A Custer State Park official says the fire grew from about 55 square miles (142 square kilometers) to roughly 73 square miles (190 square kilometers) as of Wednesday night. The fire is 10 percent contained, up from 7 percent.

Lydia Austin, a park spokeswoman, says there have been no injuries and no main park buildings have been destroyed. She says efforts to protect the State Game Lodge and Blue Bell Lodge have been successful.

Roughly 330 firefighters were on scene. The park is a top South Dakota tourist destination, featuring hills with ponderosa pine and prairie.

Emergency management officials earlier Wednesday said evacuation orders had been lifted for two small cities that had been threatened by the blaze.

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5:15 p.m.

Emergency management officials responding to a wildfire in South Dakota’s Black Hills say evacuation orders have been lifted for two small cities that had been threatened by the blaze.

Custer County Emergency Management tweeted Wednesday that the evacuation orders for Fairburn to Buffalo Gap had been ended after the fire had forced residents from those areas.

Census figures show Fairburn has a population of 85 people and Buffalo Gap 126.

Officials say the wildfire in South Dakota’s popular Custer State Park grew from about 6 square miles (16 square kilometers) on Tuesday to about 55 square miles (142 square kilometers) on Wednesday and is 7 percent contained.

The fire began Monday. Its cause is under investigation.

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12:30 p.m.

Officials at South Dakota’s Custer State Park are evaluating the wellbeing of animals on the park’s popular wildlife loop road, where visitors often drive to see roaming buffalo.

The park tweeted Wednesday that the fire’s growth and its quick spread through the southeastern end of the park put wildlife in danger, but officials don’t know of any animal deaths.

Park officials say the fire grew from about 6 square miles (16 square kilometers) on Tuesday to about 55 square miles (142 square kilometers) on Wednesday and is 7 percent contained.

They say no homes or main park buildings have been destroyed, but some outbuildings and fences have been. Officials say no people have been injured in the blaze.

The fire began Monday. Its cause is under investigation.

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11:20 a.m.

Officials say a wildfire that started in western South Dakota’s Custer State Park has grown dramatically overnight.

They say the fire grew from about 6 square miles (16 square kilometers) on Tuesday to about 55 square miles (142 square kilometers) on Wednesday and is 7 percent contained.

They say no homes or park buildings have been destroyed and an effort to protect the popular State Game Lodge by burning downed trees and grass between it and the wildfire succeeded.

Custer County Emergency Management director Mike Carter said earlier Wednesday that residents of about 200 homes east of the park had been evacuated or warned to evacuate.

Officials say the towns of Fairburn and Buffalo Gap are still being evacuated.

The fire began Monday. Its cause is under investigation.

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7:35 a.m.

Strong winds are fanning the flames of a growing wildfire in South Dakota, pushing the fire beyond the borders of the Custer State Park and prompting new evacuations.

Custer County Emergency Management director Mike Carter said Wednesday that residents of about 200 homes east of the park have been evacuated or warned to evacuate.

The park remains closed as firefighters battle the fire that has consumed more than 6.25 square miles (16.2 square kilometers) and was 7 percent contained late Tuesday. Carter says aerial surveys Wednesday will give officials an idea of how much it has grown.

A small number of people were evacuated from Legion Lake Lodge, the former Star Academy East Campus and Blue Bell Lodge Tuesday.

The fire began Monday. Its cause is under investigation.


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