News Release

Wind Cave National Park prepares for prescribed fire

A map of Wind Cave National Park showing the location of the proposed prescribed fire along the park’s western boundary near the Elk Mountain Campground. The map is brown in color with the fire location marked in blue.
Wind Cave National Park plans to burn 1,037 acres along the western boundary of the park this spring if weather conditions permit.


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News Release Date: April 15, 2022

Contact: Tom Farrell, 605-745-4600

Wind Cave National Park, S.D. – Planning is underway to burn 1,037 acres of land adjacent to the Elk Mountain Campground this spring. The fire could occur as early as the week of April 17.            

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.

“This prescribed fire will lessen the threat of wildfires by reducing the fuel load near park structures and a private residence,” said Park Superintendent Leigh Welling. “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 visible from the surrounding region. The highway 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.

This fire represents a continuation of the park's prescribed fire program which began in 1972. Segments of the park are burned, under favorable conditions, to simulate natural fires. Prescribed fires maintain the balance between forest and prairie, removes the build-up of dead fuels which reduces the chance of a catastrophic wildfire, and rejuvenates the native prairie grasses. 

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. 

Last updated: April 15, 2022

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26611 US Highway 385
Hot Springs, SD 57747


605 745-4600

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