Mount Rushmore National Memorial conducted a prescribed fire Wednesday. The plan conceived weeks ago, according to what one of the firefighters told photographer Paul Horsted, was to burn 260 acres in preparation for exploding fireworks over the sculpture on July 3. Yesterday the National Park Service released the results of the Environmental Assessment which found there would be “no significant impact” from the fireworks that were announced by President Trump May 7, 2019.
In revealing the prescribed fire today the NPS said in a statement, “The burn objective is to reduce the build-up of dead fuels, in order to reduce the chance of higher severity fires.”
Mount Rushmore National Memorial has successfully completed several fuel-reduction projects in the past to slow the growth of wildfires. These projects have primarily included mechanical thinning and pile burning, but no significant prescribed fires.
Some of the negative aspects of exploding fireworks over the sculpture, as learned from the 11 times it has been done in the past, include three primary issues:
During those 11 events 20 documented wildfires were ignited by the fireworks in the middle of the wildfire season.
2. Carcinogens in the water
In 2016 the U.S. Geological Survey discovered that the ground and surface water at Mount Rushmore are contaminated with perchlorate, a carcinogen which is a component of rocket fuels, fireworks, and explosives. They determined that the chemical came from the fireworks over the 12-year period during which they were used.
The trash dropped by the exploding shells onto the Monument and the forest can never be completely picked up. Left on the ground are unexploded shells, wadding, plastic, ash, pieces of the devices, and paper; stuff that can never be totally removed in the very steep, rocky, rugged terrain.
We thank photographer Paul Horsted for allowing us to use his photos. More of his shots including a time-lapse are at his Facebook page.