Wind Cave National Park plans prescribed burn

(National Park Service)
Published: Sep. 27, 2022 at 2:27 PM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - Wind Cave National Park plans to burn 1,037 acres of land close to the Elk Mountain Campground this fall. The fire could occur as early as the week of Oct. 2.

HQ fire map
HQ fire map(KOTA)

According to a release from the national park, the project area includes dense and open ponderosa pine forest with a grass understory. This is a wildland urban interface area involving structures in the park’s headquarters area and a nearby private residence. Ignition will take place through the utilization of ground resources, and the primary carrier of fire will be grass.

“Prescribed fires such as this help reduce the buildup of fuels that could result in a catastrophic wildfire that threatens park structures and a nearby private residence,” said Leigh Welling, superintendent of the park. “It will also decrease the encroachment of young ponderosa pine onto the prairie while improving water flow into the cave.”

Assisting with the burn will be National Park Service firefighters with support from other interagency resources. During the day of the burn, smoke from the fire may be heavy at times along Highway 385 and 87 and visible from the surrounding region. These highways, and roads leading into the visitor center area, might be closed intermittently for safety reasons. Unless there is significant precipitation, smoke might be seen in the area for several days following the burn.

Prescribed fires are carefully conducted under identified and approved prescription conditions. Factors such as humidity, fuel moisture, wind speed and direction, and short and long-range weather patterns are all considered in establishing the acceptable conditions for conducting a prescribed fire. If the prescribed set of conditions cannot be met on a specific day, the planned fire is postponed.