Saturday, March 10, 2018

Freakouts over escaped burns unhelpful

Just a hundred and fifty years ago bison would be clearing the grasses driving an ever-earlier Spring wildfire season.

Escaped burns near Rockerville and Piedmont sent South Dakota fire managers scrambling last week for outbreaks there. At post time the Chimney Canyon Fire is still burning in the 2005 Ricco Fire zone but is 100% contained.

After a century of fire suppression, a decades-long moratorium on prescribed burns, a lack of environmental litigators and GOP retrenchment the Black Hills National Forest and surrounding grasslands remain at risk to more blazes like the Legion Lake Fire. But according to one wildfire boss it's far cheaper to fight wildfires than to burn prescriptively.

Volunteer fire departments are irreplaceable as first responders to unexpected blazes and if the Federal Emergency Management Agency survives a Trump presidency it should convince Congress to make sure the resources are there to sustain rural fire departments.
In South Dakota, 92 percent of fire protection is accomplished by volunteers. Many of the volunteer departments surrounding Rapid City broke records in call volume, including Rapid Valley, Rockerville, Box Elder, Hill City, and Black Hawk. Box Elder saw an increase of 3 percent over 2016, while Rockerville saw an increase of 40 percent.
Read more here.

South Dakota's failure to sufficiently clear decades of overgrowth and understory led to the Legion Lake Fire.

More diversity means clearing the second growth ponderosa pine, restoring aspen habitat, prescribing burns, beginning extensive Pleistocene rewilding using bison and cervids, engaging tribes, buying out ranchers, leasing private land for wildlife corridors, turning feral horses from Bureau of Land Management pastures onto other public land to control exotic grasses and electing Democrats to lead the way.

South Dakota is a perpetual welfare state and a permanent disaster area, after all. Wildland fire conditions are already returning to South Dakota, most notably in southern Pennington County and at the mouth of the Big Sioux River. Harding County is shaping up to add to the wildfire season in South Dakota any day now.

The fire danger index is in the high category at all reporting stations in the Black Hills.

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