WAKPALA, S.D. – A 1,000-acre fire was reported to be burning out of control on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation near Wakpala, a day after a fire on the North Dakota portion of the reservation burned homes and threatened an elementary school.
Johnelle Leingang, executive assistant to the chairman of the reservation, said the fire started about 3 a.m. Monday.
The fire comes on the heels of a 1,500-acre fire that caused evacuation of the town of Cannon Ball, N.D., on Sunday, where cleanup has begun.
Three houses were burned down, as were several churches. Heavy smoke Sunday was a factor in a car accident on North Dakota Highway 1806, according to Leingang.
"She crawled out and called 911," said Leingang, of the driver who is being treated at a Bismarck hospital. "She got second- and third-degree burns."
Slides and swings on Cannon Ball Elementary School's playground are melted and the fire went right up to the propane tanks outside, Solen Superintendent Justin Fryer said.
But luckily the school, where 115 students attend classes, did not catch fire.
"Without their hard work, we probably wouldn't have a school right now," Fryer said of the firefighters who fought the blaze. "We all feel really fortunate the school is still standing."
Classes were canceled Monday at Cannon Ball Elementary and Solen High School. Fryer was assessing the damage to decide if classes would resume Tuesday.
Soot covers the desks of the kindergarten classroom. School janitor Jesse Black Cloud arrived at 7 a.m. to start the cleanup.
"We have to wipe everything down and do it twice," Black Cloud said. "We'll probably be here all day."
Elliott Ward, emergency manager of Standing Rock, said the fire gained momentum about 2 p.m. Sunday as the winds picked up. It had started the night before when several bales of hay burned north of Cannon Ball.
"We had to evacuate the town because there were some power lines that got knocked over," Ward said.
He said at least five structures burned, including three homes. He was unaware of any injuries.
Residents were evacuated to Prairie Knights Casino, where they received a meal. About 50 evacuees planned to spend the night there. Some had lost homes and others' houses had smoke damage, Ward said.
The American Red Cross in Bismarck set up a shelter across the reservation in Porcupine, he said. The organization planned to provide meals there.
One-hundred-fifty firefighters from Bismarck to Mobridge, S.D., responded. Ward said the tribe had an adequate number of grassland fire trucks, but lacked vehicles capable of fighting structural fires.
"After they all got here, they knocked it down pretty good," he said.
While crews worked Sunday night to put out the blaze south of Cannon Ball, fence posts and trees in town continued to emit smoke and sparks.