Fire danger doesn't always cool down during the winter

RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA TV) - The highs and lows of fire danger can reach extreme levels, even during the winter.

The daily fire danger chart ranges from low to extreme risk.

"It's not uncommon to have a fire up to 500 acres especially on the grasslands during the winter time, just because it takes a while to get out there and maybe some of the accesses might be blocked off by snow drifts but the fire's burning just fine in the grass somewhere," said Ray Bubb, fire management officer for the South Dakota Wildland Fire Division.

"We often think of fire season during the summer months but the fire danger risk is updated daily, and even in the colder months, that risk can go from moderate to extreme," said Sunday Miller.

"During the winter time, fires are man caused and I think it's just that people get a little sense of security thinking that oh it's been snowing, it's raining, it's cold outside, we're not going to have fires," Bubb said.

Bubb said any time snow isn't covering the ground, the dry, brown grasses can light on fire, and first responders have to work together to navigate these conditions.

"Learning how to drive those in inclement weather, they obviously handle a little bit different, particularly with the amount of weight that we have on them, so that's one of the things we do in our training with our guys is teaching how to drive in inclement weather outside of the fire engines, the ambulances as well," said Robert Rendon, firefighter paramedic for the Rapid City Fire Department.

Not to mention the Haaglund vehicle firefighters added after the Historic Blizzard of 2013.

"The Haaglund just gave us the capability to reach some of the areas in town that are pretty tough to get to, and quite frankly when the roads are closed, it's one of our biggest assets that we have," Rendon said.

Whatever season it is, Bubb said, they're thinking about fire danger 12 months out of the year.