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Contact: Tom Farrell, 605-745-1130
Wind Cave National Park, S.D. – Officials at Wind Cave National Park plan to burn 617 acres west of the park’s visitor center this spring if weather and fuel conditions are within acceptable ranges.
“This fire will reduce fuel loading around the park’s administration area and enhance the prairie and ponderosa pine ecosystem,” said park superintendent Vidal Davila. “If conditions are not within acceptable ranges by mid-May, we’ll postpone the burn until next fall.”
Assisting with the burn are firefighters from other National Park Service units, the Black Hills National Forest, Buffalo Gap National Grasslands, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Elk Mountain Campground entrance road will be closed temporarily, but the campground and nearby hiking trail are expected to remain open during the operation. No other road or trail closures are anticipated. Smoke from the fire may be heavy at times in the visitor center and campground areas along with being 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.