(UPDATED at 4 p.m. April 19, 2015)
Highway 385, which can be seen in the distance, was supposed to be the boundary of the prescribed fire. Only the land on the far side of the highway was planned to burn.
After being out of town for a while, today we saw the Cold Brook escaped prescribed fire in Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota for the first time. Our initial impression was that a very small percentage of the Ponderosa Pine trees lost their canopies to the fire; the mortality was very low. This is largely due to a series of prescribed fires that were conducted in the area about 13 to 16 years ago. Those burns eliminated some trees and “raised the canopy” on many; that is, some of the lower limbs were burned off reducing the ladder fuels that could later carry a fire into the crowns.
Approximately 5,420 acres burned outside the prescribed fire unit, all within the National Park.
The fire would have burned private land outside the park if the Casey Ranch south of the park had not been added a few years ago. The fire burned quite a few acres east of Highway 385 and south of the former park boundary.
In that area, a residence that remains on private land had the fire burn right up to their back yard, as you can see in the photo below.
The fire burned up to the back yard of a private residence near Highway 385. A blackened area can be seen on the left side of the photo.
When the fire escaped, it ran to the east for about four to five miles.
Looking east from the planned burn area to Highway 385 which did not serve as an adequate fire line under the conditions that day.
All of these photos in today’s update were taken by Bill Gabbert. Click on them to see larger versions.
The north end of the fire, east of Highway 385.