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Published April 04, 2013, 09:57 AM

Prescribed burn sparks 14,000-acre grassland fire

LEMMON, S.D. (AP) — A prescribed burn started by the U.S. Forest Service southeast of Hettinger, N.D., escaped containment lines and scorched nearly 22 square miles of grassland into South Dakota's Perkins County, officials said Thursday.

LEMMON, S.D. (AP) — A prescribed burn started by the U.S. Forest Service southeast of Hettinger, N.D., escaped containment lines and scorched nearly 22 square miles of grassland into South Dakota's Perkins County, officials said Thursday.

Grand River District Ranger Paul Hancock said some private property was burned over but no structure damage or injuries have been reported.

The fire spans about 14,000 acres in a rural area between the towns of Hettinger in North Dakota and Buffalo and Lemmon in South Dakota. Hancock said some parts have received snow that has helped containment efforts.

The cooler weather has drastically slowed the blaze's movement, Hancock said.

"Colder temperatures and higher humidity are helping tremendously," he said Thursday.

The Forest Service said the fire escaped Wednesday as ignition operations were ending for the prescribed burn, which is done periodically to reduce the buildup of "fuels" such as branches and brush. Winds carried the fire east and south as crews tried to contain it on the Grand River National Grasslands.

Hancock said the Forest Service regrets the burn escaped and affected "hundreds if not thousands of people" monitoring its path. There have been no ordered evacuations, though some residents have chosen to leave the area, he said.

Hancock said the Forest Service is monitoring the potential of higher temperatures and lower humidity Thursday afternoon.

"The priority for today is the protection of life and property and getting it suppressed and getting it contained," he said.

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