Fire danger is rated high in Pennington County

The current windy conditions can add a deadly component to already high fire danger.
Published: Sep. 28, 2020 at 4:52 PM MDT
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PENNINGTON COUNTY, S.D. (KEVN) - We’re facing elevated fire danger here in the Black Hills.

Temperatures have cooled down this week, but how is the weather affecting fire danger and burn bans in Pennington County?

Despite cooler temperatures, fire danger is currently rated as high for several environmental reasons.

“When the plants are very dry, the air is dry, when it’s hot, and especially when it’s windy if a fire starts, it’s going to be easier for it to start and it’s going to grow very quickly. So, it can easily get out of control and spread to buildings and trees before the fire department can even arrive," said Monica Colby, Rapid City Fire Department fire and life safety specialist.

The current windy conditions can add a deadly component to already high fire danger.

“It turns the fuel, the fire, into a wind-driven component, it becomes a wind-driven fire and it’ll actually push the fire through the fuels or through the grasses such as we see in here. You can see in the background behind me, you can see how the grass is actually flowing with the wind, that’ll give you an indication of where the fire’s going to burn at," said Jerome Harvey, Pennington County fire administrator.

Although fire danger is listed as “high” on Monday, that’s a step down from the “extreme” rating we saw on Sunday. However, just one day earlier, the danger was low enough for personal fires and even fireworks at Arrowhead Country Club.

“At that point, at that night in Rapid City, anyone could have had a backyard fire because the red flag warning was off because the wind had died down, but to do fireworks, that’s only allowed by permit and they were doing everything and more that we asked of them," said Colby.

Burn bans are reliant on the day’s fire danger rating, meaning that just like the wind the situation is ever-changing.

“There is a burn ban on for today, now, a week from now, if we get some moisture and the grassland fire danger rating changes, then that burn ban will be off. That’s the flexibility that allows our agricultural partners and the people that need to do some burning, that allows them that flexibility but that’s all based on the grassland fire danger rating," said Harvey.

As both fire officials said, burn bans are in place to help reduce fire risk and prevent wildfires.

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