One major concern for wildfires after the largest fire of the year hits the Black Hills

Published: Aug. 17, 2018 at 4:22 PM CDT
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Fire conditions in the Black Hills can change quickly.

One day we might have moderate danger and the next day we could be facing a major wildfire.

That was the case just a week ago. Conditions changed rapidly and the vineyard sparked, sending crews to Hot Springs.

The Vineyard Fire spread to about 560 acres, making it the largest wildfire we've seen in the Black Hills this year.

State fire meteorologist for South Dakota, Darren Clabo, says “this was really a localized event down in the southern hills. It's a little bit dryer down there. We are not looking for anymore big fires at least in the short run. It looks like we are kind of entering into a pattern of showers and thunderstorms across western, west-central South Dakota over the next 7-10 days. Kind of wait to see what's going to happen after that but it seems like we're seeing more precipitation in the forecast."

To prevent new wildfires from getting out of control the Black Hills National Forest implements preventive measures all year.

Black Hills National Forest district ranger for the Mystic Ranger District, Ruth Esperance, explains “we engage in a lot of mechanical and prescribed burning activities. The intent of that is to reduce some of the fuel loading or some of the vegetation. Thinning small trees, thinning some of the large trees on the forest helps reduce that stand density which can help reduce fire danger."

These proactive efforts mean if a fire starts on the ground it may not reach the tops of trees which make it much more difficult to control.

The main concern at this point is the tall grasses drying out.

"I think it's really going to be dependent again on those temperatures and the moisture levels that are in the vegetation,” states Ruth. “Clearly those temperatures that exceed 100 or when we get into the triple digits and that extends for a few days then that definitely is a watch out, we keep an eye on for those elevating fire risks."

Clabo says he is concerned about northwestern and north-central South Dakota because it isn't seeing the same amount of rain as the western part of the state.