Avoid winter wildfires as weather dries out

Winter can bring very dry and windy conditions

RAPID CITY, S.D. – After what was kind of a wintry start to the fall season, the Black Hills region has settled in to a more typical weather pattern featuring lots of sunshine, refreshingly cool breezes, and tinder-dry wildlands.

Some dry and cured grasses in a field near Rapid City show that even though summer's heat is over, wildfire danger can continue to be high heading into winter. Photo Date: Oct. 19, 2018.

Dry, cured grasses on the west side of Rapid City.

But despite the cooler temperatures, Pennington County Fire Administrator Jerome Harvey says that wildfire is still a major hazard during the winter weather months.

“Wildfire does not have a season,” Harvey said. “It’s based on what your weather and fuel conditions are doing. Doesn’t matter what time of the year it is. If you’re in a dry period like we’re experiencing now, we’ll see these type of fire conditions of fuel conditions like you see here behind me.”

Folks who have lived in the Black Hills for a long time know that weather patterns in the region can fluctuate wildly during the winter months.

“One day you can be under a foot of snow, and the next day you’ll have drying and curing wind conditions like we’re seeing now,” Harvey said.

And fuel loads are high, especially in the grasslands as we look toward the end of a year that will see a precipitation surplus of well over nine inches.

“We’ve had a good wet season, wet spring and wet summer that’s created some of our grass,” Harvey said. “Lighter, flashier fuels have grown, creating some conditions where you can have an ignition source into those things and have a rapid growth, especially later in the fall like we are now where the grass is cured out.”

And some of the longest periods of strong winds can set up over the Black Hills during winter.

Therefore, it is always a good idea to be aware of the weather conditions and the fuel loads if you’re working outside. Use caution with any flame or spark.

And continue to keep grasses and brush cut well away from your home and other buildings to help protect them should a fire be ignited.

Visit the National Weather Service online for up-to-date fire weather information.

Categories: Local News