Reminder: be fire wise, as hot, dry weather is likely to stick around

RAPID CITY, S.D. — Recent grass fires are sparking a reminder.

“There are a lot of things that can cause fires – anywhere from machinery out in the hay fields – you have the equipment moving and warm parts that catch the field on fire – to vehicles driving across the field or tall grass, to disregarded smoking products that aren’t put out correctly and appropriately discarded,” says Brian Povandra, the Division Chief of Fire Operations for Rapid City Fire.

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As we were filming for this story Thursday afternoon, a grass fire popped up right behind us in New Underwood.

It’s that time of year – fire season, which is really any time of year in the Black Hills. Recent rains and an influx of tourists can sometimes make us complacent.

“There’s been good rains in places, and in other places – right adjacent – have been really, really dry,” says State Fire Meteorologist Dr. Darren Clabo.

Easy reminders, like taking extreme care with fireworks and not discarding cigarette butts, can make a huge difference.

“If you’re towing a camper or a trailer, [make] sure your trailer chains are appropriately connected and they’re not dragging on the ground, and just overall general maintenance of the vehicles,” Chief Povandra says. “Making sure everything’s in good working order.”

This recent bout of hot, dry weather is not likely to end any time soon.

Dr. Clabo says that as we go into July, vegetation that has grown up from the recent rains is likely to die off, creating more fuel for wildfires.

“We might even see a heat wave starting late next week going into the following week,” Dr. Clabo says. “After that, temperatures [are] back up into the mid-nineties, potentially hundreds, and that’s going to really cure down the fuels and make them more receptive to the fire spread.”

Dr. Clabo says that June rains helped, but not everywhere got moisture.

“The fuel moisture is a lot higher and it’s kind of mitigating the fire threat, but again, those dry areas are still persisting out there,” Dr. Clabo adds.

Besides mitigating your own fire risk, you can help Dr. Clabo with his fire outlook by simply taking a picture of the un-mowed vegetation in your area and sending it in on social media (on Twitter @SDFireWeather or via email at darren.clabo@sdsmt.edu).

Categories: ConnectCenter1-Weather, Local News, South Dakota News