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Contact: Tom Farrell, 605-745-4600
Wind Cave National Park, S.D. – Depending on fuel and weather conditions, park management plans to conduct a 93-acre prescribed fire this fall. The project area surrounds the Elk Mountain Campground, and it could be burned as early as this weekend.
“This fire will occur in an area that is primarily ponderosa pine forest with some mixed-grass prairie,” said park superintendent Vidal Davila. “This is the second in a series of burns we plan around the campground. Eventually, we hope to burn a total of 718 acres in an effort to reduce fuel loads near the developed area.”
Assisting with the burn are firefighters from other National Park Service units, the State of South Dakota, and the U.S. Forest Service. The Elk Mountain Campground and a nearby hiking trail will be closed the day of the burn. Visitors can use the park’s picnic area for camping instead. No other road or trail closures are anticipated. Smoke from the fire may be heavy at times and will be visible from the surrounding region.
This fire represents a continuation of the park's successful prescribed fire program which began in 1972. Segments of the park are burned each year, under controlled conditions, to simulate natural fires. Prescribed fires maintain the balance between forest and prairie, remove the build-up of dead fuels lessening the chance of a catastrophic wildfire, and rejuvenate 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 does not exist on a specific day, the planned fire is postponed.