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.


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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.