Dozens of Fires Rage in West; Death Reported

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Residents are evacuating several areas after wildfires rushed across Western states. One wildfire raced out of a canyon in South Dakota's Black Hills, destroying 27 houses and killing a homeowner who tried to go back to save some belongings.

JOHN YDSTIE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm John Ydstie.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

Wildfires rushed across a dozen western states yesterday. In South Dakota's Black Hills, a fire burns outside the town of Hot Springs.

Ms. KELLY STOVER(ph) (Resident, South Dakota): When I left Hot Springs, there was ash falling from the sky. It was almost like a snowstorm.

MONTAGNE: We talked to Kelly Stover at the Great Plains Dispatch Center, where she's filling in during the fire. Her husband is a firefighter. He got worried after Saturday's lightning storm and asked her to head over to Alabar Canyon and let him know what she saw. What she witnessed was the birth of a wildfire. Two trees were burning, then a wall of fire leapt out of the canyon.

Ms. STOBER: You know, I thought I would be calm, but once I seen that wall of flame coming, it was so surreal. It was like, you know, I just got to leave.

MONTAGNE: One resident was killed and two firefighters were injured.

Ms. STOBER: The fire was actually acting almost like a tornado within the fire. The fireworks were so extreme that it started pushing the fire north, south and east, in all three directions at the same time. And at that point they had to pull firefighters back because of safety concerns.

MONTAGNE: The Alabar Canyon fire is small compared to many others burning, just a few thousand acres. But Kelly Stover says because of the drought it will take weeks, even months, for it to burn out.

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