How to be careful when burning slash piles on windy days

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Strong gusts of wind can be a recipe for fast moving fires, and if you're burning slash piles, the U.S. Forest Service advises everyone to be extra cautious.

Two weeks ago, many areas of the Black Hills picked up nearly a foot of snow, and the Forest Service and private landowners took advantage of the weather by later burning slash piles.

But Assistant Fire Office Manager Chris Stover says fires can spread more easily with the extra wind and dry conditions... as seen with several fires just from Monday.

He says even if your slash pile seems burnt out, it can still hold residual heat for days.

Chris Stover with the Mystic Ranger District says, "So probably the best thing a person can do is go out - and I'm assuming also that the folks, they work their piles, they took rakes, or shovels, or some variety of tool and they scrape the edges and they work those piles - but use the back of your hand. Take the back of your hand and reach down and touch the edge of those piles and make sure that they're not holding heat. I mean that's the best thing that you can do."

If your pile is still hot, Stover says cool it down with water, work the pile with your tools, or even throw some residual snow or cold dirt on it.

The Forest Service burns slash piles to help prevent future wildfires and mountain pine beetle infestations.

Stover says they're very conscious of smoke they put into the air from burning... making sure they don't create air quality issues in town.