All but a few West River counties are under a Red Flag Warning for Extreme Fire Danger today/Wednesday. Mike Connelly with the National Weather Service in Aberdeen says conditions have changed somewhat, but the weather remains dry.
“Well, we had a cold front moving through the area last night, and that’s gonna kick up some pretty gusty winds. Now while it’s a little bit cooler, it’s still very dry outside. And the dry conditions all fall caused grasses to dry out—cattails to dry out, so it’s an exceptional fire danger there. When you add in the gusty winds, any spark will cause a fire and that fire will move fairly quickly,” says Connelly.
There were a few major fires in the Rapid City area Tuesday—including a blaze near Box Elder that sent two people to the hospital for smoke inhalation. That fire also destroyed a building and several old vehicles on the property. The current Red Flag Warning extends from the Canadian border to Kansas.
Red Flag Warnings are issued when conditions are favorable for dangerous fires. Gusty winds in much of the state could help push small fires along into major blazes. Connelly says cool conditions and more dry weather highlight the last few days of summer.
“Actually, we have a broad area of low pressure off to our east, and a big ridge of high pressure to the west. That’ll cause air over Canada to dive over the area—so conditions will be quite chilly over the next couple of days. Going into the next week, we should see that ridge of high pressure build over top of us, we’ll continue to have drier conditions, but slightly warmer temperatures,” says Connelly.
Much of North Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas are in the Red Flag Warning as well—as those states struggle with lingering drought and strong winds today.