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1 of 2 Badlands wildfires closes roads, part of trail system

July 8, 2021 GMT

MEDORA, N.D. (AP) — One of two wildfires burning in the Badlands of western North Dakota has closed roads and part of a recreational trail system.

The fire near the Elkhorn Ranch historic site has grown to about 4.7 square miles (12 square kilometers), but is now about 75% contained, according to officials.

The fire began west of the Little Missouri River last weekend and hopped the waterway. The U.S. Forest Service has closed land in the area, including roads and part of the Maah Daah Hey Trail system. The closure spans parts of Billings and Golden Valley counties, the Bismarck Tribune reported.

Another blaze, the Sand Creek fire, broke out nearby Monday. Misty Hayes, district ranger for the Little Missouri National Grassland’s Medora Ranger District, said it was likely caused by lightning.

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That fire, which is northeast of the Elkhorn fire, has grown to 320 acres (0.50 square miles) and is 20% contained.

“The Sand Creek fire especially is in some pretty rugged, rough areas,” Hayes said. “It’s more difficult to get equipment and folks into, and more hazardous as far as being able to get out if things change.”

She said cooler weather this week, along with humidity and a small amount of rain, have helped firefighting efforts.

All of North Dakota is in some form of drought, with the areas where the fires are located considered to be in “extreme drought.” Burn bans remain in effect across most of the state, including all of western North Dakota.