South Dakota uses coloring contest to promote wildfire preparedness

SD coloring contest

The state of South Dakota is using a coloring contest to engage the public in wildfire preparedness. Their Wildland Fire Division is providing two pictures for coloring artists, one for ages 3 to 7 and another for 8 to 12. The basic images and the entry form are on their website. The deadline for submissions is April 22.

Very strong winds predicted for Black Hills

Wind gusts up to 60 in the forecast

Weather forecast-Black Hills
Weather forecast for the Pactola Lake area of the central Black Hills in South Dakota, created at 1:30 p.m. MST, February 6, 2016. Click to enlarge.

The National Weather Forecast has issued a High Wind Warning for the Black Hills in Wyoming and South Dakota for this weekend. From 11 p.m. CST Saturday until 8 p.m. CST on Sunday forecasters expect northwest winds of 25 to 35 mph with gusts up to 60.

wind forecast 2-7-2016 black hills
Updated graphic forecast added at 8:20 a.m. MST, February 7, 2016.

In the Central Black Hills area near Pactola Lake, elevation 4,797, the temperature on Sunday will max out at about 33 degrees with a minimum humidity of 39 percent. The winds there on Sunday will be northwest from 28 to 38 mph with gusts from 40 to 53 mph.

At Rapid City, 3,600 feet, it will be warmer on Sunday — 37 degrees — with an RH of 37 percent and wind gusts up to 64 mph.

We can’t find a fire weather forecast, but have heard nothing about a Red Flag Warning.

Pile burning in the Black Hills

pile burn
Black Hills National Forest burns slash piles. USFS photo.

The Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota and Wyoming is taking advantage of the recent snow to ignite some large slash piles left over from thinning or logging operations. Constructed with mechanized equipment, the Forest likes to call them “machine piles. If a person is not familiar with the practice, it may cause them to envision piles of machines:

pile of machines

Prescribed fire held in check partially by snow

When I heard this morning that the Black Hills National Forest was going to conduct a 94-acre prescribed fire today I looked out my window at the snow in my yard. Curious about how they were going to accomplish this I departed on a expedition to answer this question. It being close to lunch time I stopped at the Dew Drop In for a burger and their wonderful homemade fries, and then again at the TurtleTown chocolate shop for, obviously, a bag of chocolate turtles.

Passing near the Crazy Horse mega-sculpture I saw two bald eagles on the ground in a pasture. I pulled over onto a nearby side road hoping to get a photo, but they were pretty skittish and rudely flew away. But I still grabbed a few not very impressive photos.

Bald eagle
Bald eagle
Bald eagle
Bald eagle

By the time I made it to the Whaley prescribed fire near Hill City, South Dakota, I was no longer hungry and was ready to see how the the U.S. Forest Service fire folks were going to pull this off.

Whaley prescribed fire South Dakota

It turned out that there was almost no snow on the south facing slopes and they were about 75 percent done with ignition when I pulled up. But there was still snow in some of the flat lands and shaded areas, enough to make it pretty easy to find snow fields, in addition to roads, to serve as control lines.

At the Elk Mountain weather station the temperature was in the 40s, the relative humidity in the low 30s, and the sky was partly cloudy. As it turned out, a good day for being out in the woods with a drip torch.

Whaley prescribed fire South Dakota

The video at the top of the article includes still photos, video clips, and an interview with Todd Pechota, the Fire Staff Officer for the Black Hills National Forest.

Whaley prescribed fire South Dakota


Whaley prescribed fire South Dakota

Continue reading “Prescribed fire held in check partially by snow”

Bear Mountain fire crew’s 2015 season

The Bear Mountain Hand Crew, a state crew in South Dakota, has released a video summarizing their 2015 season. Bear Mountain is a Type 2 IA crew is comprised of 22 firefighters with its primary function being hazardous fuels reduction on state and private lands within the Black Hills. The crew is available for in and out-of-state assignments and has responded to various all risk incidents throughout the U.S. since its inception.

Summary of the wildfire season in South Dakota

The South Dakota Department of Agriculture summarized the slower than average 2015 wildfire season in the state:


Extremely dry conditions got South Dakota’s Wildland Fire season started early in 2015, but it slowed as wetter conditions persevered. For the second year in a row, the largest amount of fire activity was not in the Black Hills.

The South Dakota Department of Agriculture Wildland Fire Division says the state’s largest fire for the 2015 fire season was the 13,949 acre Sheep Draw fire in Harding County in late March.  The second largest fire was the escaped Cold Brook prescribed fire in Wind Cave National Park, which involved 5,400 acres. The third largest fire was the 5,100 acre fire near Gettysburg in April. The largest forest fire in the Black Hills was the 58 acre North Pole fire in March, which was started by slash pile debris burning.

Also for the second year in row, most of the mid-size, 500 to 1,000 acre fires were in Central South Dakota. The majority were started by harvesting on hot, dry days.

The Black Hills stayed relatively wet and quiet for the second year in a row, allowing federal, state and local fire fighters across the state assist the western states with equipment and personnel on large fires

South Dakota Wildland Fire firefighters assisted the Province of Saskatchewan in July with engine crew staffing during the record breaking fire season in Canada. Wildland Fire and volunteer firefighters sent incident management team personnel, hand crews, engine crews and aircraft to support fires activity in California, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Wyoming, Alaska, Nebraska, Idaho and Montana. All returned without serious incident or injury. The State of South Dakota Single Engine Air Tanker flew on three fires in South Dakota and one fire in Nebraska.

Additionally, Wildland Fire engine crews were called on to provide a significant amount of support to various poultry operations during the spring Avian Influenza outbreak in the eastern part of the state.