RAPID CITY, SD (KOTA) — Wind Cave State Park plans to burn 1,037 acres of land near Elk Mountain Campground this fall. The fire could occur as early as the week of October 2.
According to a statement from the national park, the project area includes dense, open ponderosa pine forest with a grassy understory. It is a wilderness urban interface area involving structures in the park headquarters area and a nearby private residence. Ignition will take place through the use of resources on the ground, and the main vector of fire will be grass.
“Prescribed fires like this help reduce fuel buildup that could result in a catastrophic wildfire that threatens park structures and a nearby private residence,” said Leigh Welling, park superintendent. “It will also reduce the encroachment of young ponderosa pines on the meadow while improving water flow in the cave.”
National Park Service firefighters will attend the blaze with support from other interagency resources. During the day of the fire, smoke from the fire can sometimes be thick along Highways 385 and 87 and visible from the surrounding area. These highways and the roads leading to the Visitor Center may be closed intermittently for safety reasons. Unless there is significant rainfall, smoke can be seen in the area for several days after the burn.
Prescribed burns are carefully conducted under identified and approved prescribed conditions. Factors such as humidity, fuel moisture, wind speed and direction, and short and long range weather conditions are all taken into account to establish acceptable conditions for conducting a prescribed burn. If all the prescribed conditions cannot be met on a specific day, the planned fire is postponed.
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