Fire Danger: Very High

Fire Danger: Very High

01March 2005

published by KotaTerritory News

by Catherine Kim

Three fires in the past four days in KOTA Territory, and the conditions are ripe for more. Could spring rain actually make for a more dangerous summer? We spoke with a fire meteorologist who says a short period of heavy spring rains could spell more trouble than good.

Fire meteorologist Randall Benson has maps that paint a volatile picture of the Black Hills. “The fire danger situation is pretty serious right now. We’re one of the hardest hit areas.”

With a 9 inch moisture deficit and conditions only getting drier by the day, wildland fire fighter Steve Hasenohrl says the humidity is so low we can feel it. “Just have a walk across the carpet to pick–up static charge. That tells you humidity is extremely low.”

“If you walk outside things are pretty crunchy on the forest floor. The drier it is the crunchier it gets,” said Benson. Conditions that are ripe for fire, and in light of the three wildfires that were ignited in the past four days, wildland firefighters are gearing up for more. “Normally, instead of one engine we might send out two engines,” said Hasenohrl.

The fire danger is already at the very high level, but it could get worse, before it gets better. “It is kind of double–edge sword,” said Benson. That’s because the April–May spring rain that might fall could just be enough to restock the fuel for summer fires, but won’t be enough to really soak up the drought. “It’s kind of a danger if you get too much rainfall because it does promote further growth of the forest fuels, so it could be our worst case scenario.”

According to Benson, based on the facts and figures, this year is looking a lot like a reflection of last year, very dry and very busy for fire fighters.

Wildland fire officers say the main threat for fires right now is ourselves. Firefighters advise us to be extra vigilant, and very careful. Don’t throw cigarettes on the ground, don’t park your cars on grass, and use common sense.



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