Hundreds evacuated as Oil Creek fire reaches 20,000 acres - KOTA Territory News

Hundreds evacuated as Oil Creek fire reaches 20,000 acres

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The Oil Creek fire near Newcastle is currently the largest and most dangerous fire burning in KOTA Territory, having consumed at least 20,000 acres.
 
The fire made significant runs to the north Monday night, almost tripling in size. Now firefighters are scrambling to keep it away from homes.

And incident commander Mark Thibo said that's a tough task.
 
"We don't know which way the fire is going to be pushed," he said, "so we're prepared for it to be pushed every way. So that keeps us thin a little bit."
 
Several stretches of road in Weston County have already been evacuated, as well as the town of Osage about eight miles from Newcastle.

In all, more than 400 people are out of their homes.
 
"Evacuations are ordered based upon what we feel the wind direction is going to be and the fire intensity where that wind is going to go," Thibo said, adding that changes faster than they can respond.
 
"We feel like we need to be prepared in case the fire path would change," said Joann Farnsworth, administrator for the nursing home at Weston County Health Services. She started making evacuation plans Monday, just in case.
 
"It's not very easy to evacuate 60 people who are unable to transfer themselves, to get into a regular vehicle, or even into a bus," she said.
 
And though the plan is there, Farnsworth hopes the fire will stay north where open ranges dominate the landscape.
 
"We've got a solid anchor," said Thibo, "and we're working the sides of the fire up on both sides with the intent of pinching it off on the north end."

There were roughly 400 firefighters on the scene Tuesday evening. They have ordered more resources, but with so many fires in the region, there simply aren't enough to go around.

Fire activity picked back up again in the Tuesday afternoon heat.

Combine that with 20-year lows for moisture in the fuels, and fire crews could be in for a long battle. 

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

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