Wind Cave National Park ignites prescribed burn
WIND CAVE NATIONAL PARK, S.D. — Wind Cave National Park held a large prescribed burn Saturday to help clear fuels in the area. With calm weather conditions, the fire moved quickly within the perimeter.
To some, it may seem counterintuitive to set a grassland or forest area ablaze in efforts to prevent fires. However, by setting up a controllable perimeter, a team of firefighters is able to supervise the elimination of fuels that could be much more dangerous if ignited by wildfire.
“We had a prescribed burn that we partnered with the forest service back in 2014,” he recalls. “A few years later, a wildfire came burning into that area, and as soon as it hit the area that had burned previously, the fire behavior dropped dramatically.”
The firefighters were then able to enter that area to protect nearby structures and gain more containment of the wildfire.
Prescribed fires also help to restore the natural environment and promote forest health by clearing out decayed material and allowing new life to flourish.
One of the main goals of this burn was to reduce the fuel-loading associated with dense ponderosa pine growth. There were two other objectives as well.
“We’re looking at reducing or decreasing the encroachment of young ponderosa pine onto the prairie. We’re also looking to improve water flow into the cave,” Farrell explains.
It takes cooperation to organize a 676 acre burn, but firefighters from all over the area united for the morning.
“It’s just the fire community, that we help out one another,” says Farrell. “We have people from the state of South Dakota Forest Service, the National Parks service areas, so there’s a lot of people that came from quite a ways away to here to help us.”
A morning briefing, followed by a test burn, and then constant patrol of the fire helped ensure the safety of the crew and the park.