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Fires burn 1600 acres

Two wildfires that ignited on Sunday burned a combined estimated total of 1600 acres and required a sizeable response from firefighters around the county and beyond.

In New Haven, a fire located on a combination of private and state land is estimated to have reached 400 acres. According to Fire Warden Charlie Harrison, crews that responded to the fire included Oshoto, Carlile, Sundance, Pine Haven and Hulett.

The lower portion of the fire was located in grass, but around 70% of the fire was in higher, timbered territory.

According to Harrison, the fire was 60% contained by Monday morning.

"The biggest threat is the wind," said Harrison at that time, explaining the need for the day shift of six engines, one water tender, a dozer and four overhead units from State Forestry that continued to monitor the area and work on the scene.

A wind-driven grass fire on private land near Moorcroft, known as the Hwy 16 Incident, is meanwhile estimated to have burned approximately 1200 acres.

Units from Pine Haven, Moorcroft and Sundance responded. Weston County Fire Protection District also assisted, sending 26 firefighters along with nine engines and four tenders.

The incident led to WYDOT warning motorists on Sunday afternoon that caution would be needed traveling near milepost 157.

"It did bump I-90," said Harrison.

This caused the need for traffic to be diverted into one lane, but never led to a closure of the interstate.

By Monday morning, the Hwy 16 Incident was estimated at 90% contained but was still being monitored by one unit.

The cause for both fires is currently under investigation.

The Rapid City National Weather Service Forecast Office issued a Red Flag Warning on Monday, with critical fire weather conditions developing across northeast Wyoming and southern South Dakota. Gusting winds of up to 45 mph were predicted with relative humidity as low as 15%.

The service noted in the warning that it is "very unusual for widespread critical fire weather conditions to develop in February" and that the initial wind shift could be "highly problematic" for ongoing fires.