Wind keeps wildfire from Rushmore
'One of the top fire priorities in the country'
ROCKERVILLE, South Dakota (CNN) -- The blusterous wildfire menacing a national treasure in South Dakota swelled to more than 10,000 acres Tuesday, but a southerly wind kept the blaze away from the four gigantic presidential faces on Mount Rushmore.
That wind pushed the fire over U.S. Highway 16 near Rockerville Monday, forcing officials to close the main road between Rapid City and South Dakota's most popular tourist attraction.
"There are detours, alternate routes," said a fire information officer, Todd Phillipe, at the command center in Rockerville. "Mount Rushmore is open."
State Highway 40, which roughly parallels the southern boundary of the fire, is also closed, Phillipe said. The Battle Creek fire, as this one is dubbed, is "one of the top fire priorities in the country," he said.
"A lot of people are impacted," he said. "We're very fortunate that only three houses have been burned."
The strong and gusty southern winds blew the fire back on itself near Mount Rushmore and Keystone, the gateway to the park, giving firefighters time to construct fire lines.
"The town of Keystone ... is a major priority for the firefighters," Phillipe said. "There is structure protection, engines, hand crews, line protection and all of that is being finished today."
Forecasts: Wind may shift
The fully established fire lines come none too late -- Phillipe said meteorologists have predicted the winds could shift to the north Wednesday.
"Then the fire would be going south and could potentially move toward Mount Rushmore," which is now about four miles from the leading edge of the blaze, he said.
But, Phillipe said, firefighters hope that a northerly wind-driven fire won't cross their handiwork.
"Mount Rushmore has never been in any imminent danger," he said, "and that's the way we want to keep it."
The park and the town of Keystone are both under a 30-minute evacuation advisory as a priority. The towns of Rockerville, Hayward and Mount Rushmore Estates remained evacuated Tuesday. Ten more homes northeast of Keystone were evacuated late Monday.
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