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Fire still a threat

Published: Thursday, September 5th, 2013

Although Custer County, and the Black Hills in general, has experienced one of its wetter summers in recent memories, fire officials warn that the area is one prolonged dry spell away from returning to extreme fire danger.
Custer County has received good moisture throughout the majority of the summer and at one point experienced 16 consecutive days in which some rain fell. Unlike last year, when fire danger was high for the majority of the summer, the county has been able to avoid extreme fire danger and “red flag” fire warnings. While much of the western part of the U.S. burns, the Black Hills National Forest has remained relatively fire free. In fact, there have been only 53 ignitions and 44 acres burned on Forest land this summer.
Todd Pechota, Forest fire management officer for the U.S. Forest Service, said a typical year will see 120 ignitions and around 7,000 acres burned. Last year, around 25 more fires started than normal.
Despite the wetter summer, Pechota said the Black Hills still has another month and a half or so of fire season ahead of it and if the recent hot, dry weather continues, it could be an active fall fire season.
“I think it’s always important because of how fast things can change here, depending on how the weather is, that people remain vigilant,” he said. “We have to do everything we can to prevent human-caused ignitions.”
Custer County emergency management director Mike Carter shares Pechota’s sentiment. Carter said while the rain throughout the summer has been nice, getting a false sense of security would be an error on everybody’s part.
“We definitely have had some relief. The water table is up and the recovery (outlook) if we do have a fire is much improved,” he said. “But there are areas if we get a fire that had a 40-acre start like the Rim Fire (in California), we would be in the same situation.”

Although Custer County, and the Black Hills in general, has experienced one of its wetter summers in recent memories, fire officials warn that the area is one prolonged dry spell away from returning to extreme fire danger.

Custer County has received good moisture throughout the majority of the summer and at one point experienced 16 consecutive days in which some rain fell. Unlike last year, when fire danger was high for the majority of the summer, the county has been able to avoid extreme fire danger and “red flag” fire warnings. While much of the western part of the U.S. burns, the Black Hills National Forest has remained relatively fire free. In fact, there have been only 53 ignitions and 44 acres burned on Forest land this summer.

Todd Pechota, Forest fire management officer for the U.S. Forest Service, said a typical year will see 120 ignitions and around 7,000 acres burned. Last year, around 25 more fires started than normal.

Despite the wetter summer, Pechota said the Black Hills still has another month and a half or so of fire season ahead of it and if the recent hot, dry weather continues, it could be an active fall fire season.

“I think it’s always important because of how fast things can change here, depending on how the weather is, that people remain vigilant,” he said. “We have to do everything we can to prevent human-caused ignitions.”

Custer County emergency management director Mike Carter shares Pechota’s sentiment. Carter said while the rain throughout the summer has been nice, getting a false sense of security would be an error on everybody’s part.

“We definitely have had some relief. The water table is up and the recovery (outlook) if we do have a fire is much improved,” he said. “But there are areas if we get a fire that had a 40-acre start like the Rim Fire (in California), we would be in the same situation.”

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