RAPID CITY, S.D. -

People might die.
The Rapid City Fire Department and city parks department say that’s how dangerous fire threats are in overgrown forest sections atop Skyline Drive.
The Rapid City Council on Tuesday is set to head off trouble in the city’s Wilderness Park.
The council is expected to approve a contract with NRG Consulting Services of Colorado for $182,545, or $2,636 per acre. The job includes thinning tree numbers, clearing damage from last October’s blizzard and removing or piling limbs and trunks of ponderosa pines killed by mountain pine beetles. The city fire department will burn the slash piles.
“It’s a heavy use recreational area, it’s close to a lot of private property and in the current state of fuel loading, it’s subject to catastrophic fire and we’re trying to minimize that,” fire department Lt. Tim Weaver explained.
There are fears that a quick, big blaze could destroy homes and wipe out the forest near Rapid City’s landmark Dinosaur Park.
“That’s something that we do not want in a forest that we are managing, in particular one that’s right in the center of town,” Weaver said.
The hazardous fuels removal project for Wilderness Park is two years in the planning and will take another year to clear up trouble spots over 69 mountainous acres.
Thinning makes it tougher for flames to leap from tree to tree and safer for firefighters.
“That way when the fires do occur up here, and we have a lot of them up here every year, we’re primarily dealing with a surface fire, a fire on the ground, and that’s much easier for us to manage.”
On slopes too steep to haul away material, tree limbs and trunks will be piled for burning by the fire department -- probably in November or December 2015 if conditions are right.
“We’re really taking out all the junk and leaving all the good stuff behind is what we’re doing,” Weaver said.