“Where there’s smoke…” Rapid City Fire Department burns slash piles in Skyline Wilderness

RAPID CITY, S.D. — Expect to see smoke over Rapid City’s Skyline Drive this week. The Rapid City Fire Department is taking advantage of the fresh snow and burning slash piles as a part of their Wildfire Mitigation Program.

Rcfd Controlled Burns 7The piles are Ponderosa pine killed by the pine engraver beetle — which is different than the mountain pine beetle.

Why set the fires at all?

The department says that sometimes burning operations are the only option and will only be conducted as long as conditions are favorable.

“If we can physically get it out of the area, it’s better sometimes,” said RCFD Lt. Eric O’Connor of the department’s Wildfire Mitigation Program. “But in this application, we weren’t able to mechanically get to everything, and so a pile burning was the best option for us.”

Slash pile burns aid wildfire mitigation:

How homeowners can help:

O’Connor says the fire department appreciates property owners who do their own wildfire mitigation and burn slash piles on their land.

“We do allow burning in the city,” said O’Connor. “A lot of people don’t know that we do allow a pile burning in the city, but just to follow the proper channels. We definitely want people to burn when the conditions are right, but just don’t press their luck.”

“People really get freaked out – right? – when they light the pile. And that first 10 to 20 minutes of just that huge energy release when it’s in the free-burning stage. And it can be very intimidating of, “Dear God, what have I just done?” But you know, 10, 15 minutes later it’s just down to the coals.”

Black Hills National Forest plans burns as well:

Meanwhile, national forest rangers also plan to take advantage of the new snow. There are thousands of hand- and machine slash piles throughout the Black Hills National Forest.

Forest officials say they will also only burn piles when conditions are right. They say smoke may be visible and impact local communities throughout the area for the next several months.

Categories: Local News, Wildland Fire