Norbeck prescribed fire in the Black Hills

Norbeck prescribed fire

Briefing for the Norbeck Section 2 prescribed fire at 7 a.m., October 20, 2014. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Monday morning we attended the 7 a.m. briefing for the Norbeck Section 2 prescribed fire in the Black Hills. It is a complex, Type 1, 1,938-acre project on State, Federal and private lands approximately 4 miles northeast of Pringle, South Dakota. The 120 personnel will be igniting vegetation in Wind Cave National Park, Custer State park, Black Hills National Forest, and private land. Some of the funding is provided by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. To assist with ignition on the large project a Type 3 helicopter will be dropping plastic spheres that burst into flame about 30 seconds after they exit the dispenser on the helicopter.

When I looked at the large crowd assembled for the briefing and remarked to Todd Pechota, the Fire Management Officer for the Black Hills National Forest, that I didn’t expect to see so many people, he said, “We wanted to get this one right”.

Norbeck prescribed fire

Communications Unit Leader Bob Fischer briefs on radio usage for the Norbeck Section 2 prescribed fire. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

The four different land owners and the funding from a non-government organization are some of the reasons why planning for the project has been going on for at least five years. They brought in a Prescribed Fire Burn Boss, Ross Wilmore the Fire Management Officer on the White River National Forest in Colorado, to work with the trainee Burn Boss, Matt Spring.

And just to make things a little more complicated, the annual buffalo roundup in Wind Cave National Park is occurring now, with the animals being herded to corrals about a half mile east of the prescribed fire. Many people from the national park are tied up on that project.

The ignition of the burn is expected to take two days, Monday and Tuesday of this week. Dew and even frost in some areas may delay the start of the project Monday morning, but things should dry out by mid- to late morning.

Highway 87 through Custer State Park and Wind Cave National Park will be closed Monday through Wednesday. As the fire progresses through the ponderosa pine and grass meadows in the area, it will be putting up a large amount of smoke. The firefighters expect to work from north to south, primarily concentrating on the three northern-most units on Monday, and move to Unit 4 on the south end on Tuesday. (See the map below.)

We will return to the prescribed fire Monday afternoon to report on the progress and hopefully grab some more photos.

Norbeck prescribed fire

A heliwell and two dozers at the Norbeck Section 2 prescribed fire in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The heliwell is filled with water, so that a helicopter with a buck can dip out it. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Map of the Norbeck prescribed fire

Map of the Norbeck Section 2 prescribed fire. I drew in NPS 5, the dirt road that intersects with Highway 87 at Drop Point 6. (click to enlarge)

The weather for the project looks pretty good. The spot weather forecast for Monday predicts southwest then south winds at 6 to 10 mph, 72 degrees, and relative humidity of 31 percent; Tuesday looks about the same. The smoke will be pushed toward the north and northeast.


Report released on swamp buggy fire in Florida

burned swamp buggy

The burned swamp buggy. Photo from the report.

The Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center has published a report on a swamp buggy that caught fire and was destroyed while working on a prescribed fire in Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida in August.

According to the report:

The exact cause of the swamp buggy fire remains unknown. However, physical examination of a very similar buggy—as well as the first-person accounts from those present during the burn—suggest that the fuel line running from the buggy’s gas tank to the pump failed.

swamp buggy


Prescribed fire on Rogue River-Siskiyou NF

prescribed fire

Prescribed fire on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest last week. Photo by Julia Denning.

Julia Denning was kind enough to send us these photos she took at meadow restoration prescribed fires conducted last Wednesday, October 8 on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest in Oregon. Thanks Julia!

prescribed fire

Prescribed fire on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest last week. Photo by Julia Denning.


Prescribed fire in central Oregon


prescribed fire Oregon

Central Oregon Fire Info (@CentralORFire) sent out this photo Thursday, saying:

Prescribed fire southeast of Bend went well today. 460 acres completed. Ignitions continue tomorrow for 140 more.

Click on the photo to see a larger version.

A bonus photo:

Fire training, Chattahoochee NF, 1941 Photo Clint Davis

Forest Ranger shows Keona Squad how to rake a fire line on the Chattahoochee National Forest, August, 1941. Photo by Clint Davis. (via @ForestService)


Report: Fuel treatments made two Arizona fires more controlable

Burnout on the Slide Fire

Burnout operation on the Slide Fire. InciWeb photo.

Forest treatments to reduce hazardous fuels made it easier to contain two wildfires in Arizona this year, according to Wally Covington, the director of the Ecological Restoration Institute, and a Regents’ professor of forest ecology at Northern Arizona University. In an op-ed at LiveScience, Mr. Covington said the fires had the conditions, and the chance, to burn hundreds of houses and destroy some of the state’s most coveted recreational tourist attractions, but they didn’t.

He is referring to the 21,000-acre Slide Fire and the 7,000-acre San Juan Fire which started in May and June, respectively. While they still grew into large fires, Mr. Covington said they could have become very damaging megafires, if not for the fuel treatments previously conducted on the Apache-Sitgreaves and Coconino National Forests.

Below is an excerpt from the article:

…The San Juan fire also provided lessons about how treated areas did what they were designed to do: slow a fire’s advance and restore a forest’s natural ability to self-regulate. How a wildfire behaves when it reaches a treatment area is a good test of how those treatments work. Fire crews and incident management teams reported that when the fire burned into areas that had been thinned, it burned with low severity and on the ground, not in treetops. The dry, frequent-fire forests of the West evolved with this type of fire, a slow-moving, low severity surface fire that would remove young trees and revitalize understory grasses and forbs. Anecdotal evidence from the San Juan Fire also suggests that the previously treated areas allowed fire crews to safely conduct burnout operations, thus enabling them to manage and control the fire.