March 28, 2003
Tom Farrell, 605/745-1130
Officials at Custer State Park and Wind Cave National Park announced that they are preparing to conduct a joint burn this spring in the Hay Flats/Red Valley area of their parks. This 4200-acre burn, one of the Black Hill’s largest, will be a cooperative effort between state and federal firefighters to reduce hazard fuel loads, perpetuate natural processes, and maintain and restore a prairie ecosystem. The burn area is bracketed by roads NPS 5, 6, CSP 6, and the Wildlife Loop Road and is along the parks’ common boundary. Roads surrounding the burn will be closed to visitor traffic during the fire due to safety concerns.
Depending on weather and fuel conditions, the burn could take place anytime between April 15 and May 20. Wind Cave Superintendent Linda L. Stoll said, “We need to burn after the fuels dry out from spring moisture and before the plants green up for the summer.”
Due to the size of the burn, the primary ignition source will be from a helicopter using small spheres similar to Ping-Pong balls. After dropping from the helicopter, the spheres ignite as a result of a chemical reaction. This provides a faster and safer means of ignition than using ground crews. The burn is expected to generate a large amount of smoke that will be visible throughout the Black Hills.
Rollie Noem, Custer State Park Director, said, “The boundary fence doesn’t keep us from working cooperatively on common issues facing our parks. This is just another example of working with our neighbor to fulfill mutual goals.”
Over 115 firefighters from the Department of State Forestry, Department of Corrections, Custer State Park, Wind Cave National Park, and the United States Forest Service will assist with the burn which will occur in rolling hills with both mixed-grass prairie and ponderosa pine forest.