Wildfires

Victoria Wicks

South Dakota air quality has been affected this summer by wildfires in other states, particularly those to the west. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, there were sixteen active large fires burning in Montana as of Tuesday, Aug. 29. There are also eight in California, eleven in Oregon, another eleven in Washington, thirteen in Idaho, nine in Colorado, and two in Wyoming. At times, the South Dakota sun is dim even in a cloudless sky. All that smoke can cause health problems, especially for vulnerable people. SDPB's Victoria Wicks reports.

More Wildfires In the Future

Apr 10, 2017
South Dakota State University

Wildfires are nothing new to people in parts of South Dakota. However experts say fires are becoming bigger and more intense.

Professor Mark Cochrane is a senior researcher at South Dakota State University. He and researchers from the University of Tasmania in Australia and the University of Idaho have spent the last decade studying wildfires.

Water Scooper Aircraft Poised In the Black Hills

Jun 3, 2016
Kenzie Wagner / SDPB

UPDATE: Officials with the Forest Service say the scoopers were called out to fight large fires in Alaska.

The Black Hills is temporary home for two U.S. Forest Service water scooper airplanes. 

Each aircraft can skim a lake, scoop up about 1,600 gallons of water to carry and drop on wildfires.

The two Bombardier CL 415’s are the only forest service scoopers currently operational in the country. Officials say the planes are on hand due to potential wildfire conditions in the area.

SDSU professor Mark Cochrane, a wildfire expert and senior scientist at the Geospatial Sciences Center of Excellence joins Innovation to discuss living with fire. He’s working on a study of 630 large wildfires that occurred in the last decade in US National Forests to determine which forest treatments – thinning, controlled burns, etc—are most effective in particular US forests. Cochrane is part of a team of scientists from Idaho, California, Utah, Montana, Nevada, Colorado, Canada and Australia who examined the challenges that must be overcome to create fire-resilient communities.

Black Hills Wildfire Outlook

May 2, 2016

South Dakota has seen two large wildfires this year and the traditional fire season hasn’t even started. But the state fire meteorologist says the intensity of the coming fire season depends on the amount of spring and summer rain. 

Darren Clabo is the state fire meteorologist.  He says warm and dry conditions this winter and early spring are related to the two large wildfires in the Black Hills. The good news, Clabo says, is that wetter weather is ahead.

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  So far this year there have been no major wildfires in South Dakota, but the state has seen a blanket of smoke drifting in from fires burning across the drought stricken west.  Hundreds of homes have been lost to wildfire this year across the country.  But officials say homeowners can take steps to protect their own property before a fire hits.  

Firefighter Students Train For Wildfires

Jun 1, 2015
Chynna Lockett

Firefighters are preparing for forest fire season in South Dakota. The Box Elder Job Corps is hosting an intensive firefighting course. Land management agencies from South Dakota and the surrounding states are invited to work with future firefighters. Students participate in various training activates to become qualified to combat wildland fires.

Click play bellow to hear more.

National Park Service

Fire is one of the management tools used at Wind Cave National Park in the southern Black Hills to help maintain the health and natural balance of the grassland and forest. The park uses prescribed fires to achieve a more "natural" state by reducing accumulated fuel levels, reducing ponderosa pine encroachment on the grasslands, and eliminating exotic plants and increasing the diversity and health of native plant species.

Wildfire Awareness Week

May 5, 2014

May 3-10 is Wildfire Awareness Week to raise public awareness of wildfires and promote actions that reduce the risk from wildfires to homes and communities. In the outlook through the end of June, the forecast is for average to below average large fire potential with fire potential the highest over south central and southeastern South Dakota. Darren Clabo, state fire meteorologist, discussed the current fire weather conditions and the potential for the coming months.