Will vegetation from heavy rains lead to more severe wildfires?
RAPID CITY, S.D. — Now that summertime temperatures are settling in and after the wet spring and early summer we’ve had — does all that vegetation increase the risk of wildfires?
Higher than normal rainfall this season would be an understatement for some areas of the Black Hills
Rapid City Regional Airport is currently over 7 inches of rainfall above normal for this time of the year.
Sweet Clover, the yellow flowers you’ve seen everywhere, covers fields in and around the Black Hills, flaunting the plentiful moisture that’s been available to the region.
Wildfires have almost been non-existent, but will that pattern remain? Will the extra vegetation fuel larger wildfires in the long-term?
“Out here in South Dakota, we’re not in what I would call a ‘fuels limited system.’ Every year we grow enough grass to burn. However, this year, yeah, there’s a little bit more grass out there, which might add to fire severity down the road. But really, in any given year, we do have enough fuels to create problematic fire seasons,” says Dr. Darren Clabo, a state fire meteorologist with the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.
Specifically, does the extra fuel increase our chances of a wildfire happening or not happening?
Clabo says while it may make a wildfire worse, it doesn’t increase the chances one way or the other of one happening.
While we can continue enjoying the lush, green environment the rains have brought, it’s important to be smart with equipment, campfires, cigarette butts and other contributors to wildfires, particularly as the temperatures rise.