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Contact: Tom Farrell, 605-745-1130
Wind Cave National Park, S.D. –Preparations are nearly complete for a 2,199 acre prescribed fire planned for this September at Wind Cave National Park. The burn area is located in the southwestern corner of the park, west of Highway 385.
"The project area includes dense and open ponderosa pine forest with a grass understory, said park superintendent Vidal Dávila. "This is a wildland urban interface area with several private residences within a quarter mile of the burn. This burn will decrease the intensities of fires in this area and allow us to better protect those nearby homes."
The primary objectives of this burn are to reduce fuel loading in the ponderosa pine forest and to decrease encroachment of young ponderosa pine onto the prairie. Ignition will take place through the utilization of ground resources, and the primary carrier of fire will be grass.
Assisting with the burn will be approximately 50 firefighters from other National Park Service units, the Black Hills National Forest, Nebraska National Forest, State of South Dakota, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
During the first of three days the burn is expected to take, smoke from the fire may be heavy at times along Highway 385 and visible from the surrounding region. The highway might be temporarily closed for safety reasons. Unless there is significant precipitation, smoke might be seen in the area for up to 10 days. The Cold Brook Trail will be closed during fire operations and possibly for two weeks following the burn.
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, 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 does not exist on a specific day, the planned fire is postponed.