2016 Spring, Fall SD Wildfires Follow Climate Warming Pattern

Nov 13, 2016

The Cold Fire in April of 2016 charred 2000 acres. Historically fires of this size and intensity are not as common in the springtime as they are in summer.
Credit Michael Engelhart / Black Hills National Forest
We're looking at 2016 as being one of the warmest years on record.

2016 brought significant spring and fall wildfires to South Dakota.  The State Fire Meteorologist Darren  Clabo says these fires follow a trend of longer fire seasons.

During major wildfires Clabo is on hand to help crews predict the weather and plan out their attack.   When he’s not helping fight fires, Clabo spends time tracking the climate.

“We’re looking at 2016 as being one of the warmest years on record.  In October in the first week and a half of November have been no exception to that warning trend we’ve been above average 10 to 15 degrees above average, across much of South Dakota so it’s definitely following that trend,” says Clabo.

In early April the Cold Fire in the Southern Black Hills scorched about 2000 acres and kept 200 firefighters busy.   Clabo says the Cottonwood Fire in Mid-October is South Dakota’s 5th largest in wildfire on record.  That fire turned about 60 square miles of western South Dakota Prairie black.

“So when we start looking at warmer annual average temperatures, you know the fall temperatures and the spring temperatures are both warmer as well, and so any of those warmer days can be quite conducive to fire growth,” says Clabo.

Clabo says the variable weather across South Dakota means it’s important to always be careful with fire. He says homeowners need to take care of their property, reduce overgrowth, and limit ignition sources.