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Recent fires raise alarm about high fire danger

Lost Cabin Fire 3.jpg
Black Hills National Forest
A firefighter battles the Lost Cabin Fire.

Black Hills National Forest officials are calling attention to continued high fire danger after a recent spate of wildfires.

Three fires last weekend were a surprise, but the fourth was planned.

The Lost Cabin Fire in the Black Elk Wilderness burned about 7 acres. The 650 Fire burned about 1 acre near the Cosmos tourist attraction, and the Rolling Hills Fire burned about 12 acres west of Black Hawk.

The Anti-Horse prescribed fire on Sunday was planned. Scott Jacobson, public affairs officer for the Black Hills National Forest, says planned intentional fires, known as prescribed burns, will continue by the Forest Service to eliminate flammable debris.

Fire danger has been high in the Black Hills and surrounding plains in the past several weeks. Warmer temperatures combined with low humidity and winds create ideal conditions for fire to become erratic and spread quickly.

Red-flag warnings urge residents to put off private burns, though prescribed burns by the Forest Service continue. Jacobson says conditions for critical fire danger in the grassland and prairie area don't always reflect the current conditions at a higher elevation in the forest. He says seeing smoke in the hills isn't a green light for residents to burn, too. The Forest Service goes through a series of steps to make sure the area that is being burned meets the prescription to ensure safety.

As recreation season kicks off, coupled with the recent warm weather, Jacobson reminds campers that dispersed fires are not allowed in the Black Hills. Campfires must be contained in installed, metal fire rings to prevent forest fires.

He says, "We seem to chase wildfires because people will build their own little campfire out in the woods on the South Dakota side. Some areas at certain times of year, it's legal in Wyoming, but on the South Dakota side it’s not legal."