Meteorologist Predicts Less Fire Activity For 2019

Apr 25, 2019

The Fort Meade prescribed burn from April 27, 2018.
Credit Josh Hoffman / Black Hills National Forest

The state wildfire meteorologist for South Dakota anticipates a slower than average wildfire season this year.

A wetter than average spring and summer are forecast for 2019. But even two weeks of dry weather and above average temperatures could change that during peak fire season months.

Expect a fire season much like last years… or even less.

Statewide, about 5,000 acres caught fire last year. That’s below ten percent of the acreage burned the preceding three years.

Darren Clabo is the state wildfire meteorologist for South Dakota. He says below average fire potentials are anticipated for 2019.

“We’re kindof in an El Nino situation, right now,” Clabo says. “Which leans us towards wetter than average conditions in the summer months. La Nina conditions, we typically see big fire seasons after those La Nina winters. We’re in the opposite of that. We typically don’t see a lot of fire activity coming out of El Nino conditions.”

Clabo notes that over the last 120 years, the average annual temperature has steadily increased.

He says warmer temperatures in the Black Hills are going to tilt conditions to a more active wildfire season.

“When we start seeing these well above average days—temperatures in excess of 95 or even 100 degrees—in western South Dakota, that’s really going to help to dry out our fuels and make them more susceptible to burn,” Clabo says. “Going forward, our likelihood of seeing those conditions is going to increase as we get increasing temperatures. I would expect our wildfire potential to increase with that as well.”
 
Clabo reminds homeowners of safe wildfire practices around homes by cleaning out gutters and taking care of shrubs.

To hear Clabo's 2019 South Dakota Wildfire Outlook presentation, click play below.