Black Hills National Forest to Begin Prescribed Burning

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Custer, SD, September 19, 2016 – The public may notice smoke in various parts of the Black Hills National Forest during the next several months as fire crews conduct prescribed fires.

The Hell Canyon Ranger District on the Black Hills National Forest is planning to ignite the 289 acre Mahoney prescribed fire beginning this week or next depending on weather.

The Mahoney project area, located approximately 5 miles northwest of Pringle, SD, focuses on treating Forest Service land around the wildland urban interface. (Map attached)

“Prescribed fire is an important tool in reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfire across the landscape,” said Todd Pechota, Forest Fire Management Officer. “It allows us to reintroduce fire, using lower fire intensities, to reduce hazardous fuel accumulations on the forest floor.”

Hazardous fuels reduction will help to protect nearby private property and homes, and to aid fire suppression, tactics and strategies in the event of an unplanned wildland fire.

Reduced fuels will slow a wildfire’s rate of spread and reduce flame length, which reduces the potential for a crown wildfire (fire that spreads from treetop to treetop). “By removing these fuels, wildfires will not burn as aggressively in a treated area,” said Pechota. “This gives firefighters increased suppression options to safely and effectively manage a wildfire incident.”

Prescribed fire also encourages new growth in forage for wildlife and cattle, maintains many plant and animal species whose habitats depend on periodic fire, minimizes the spread of pest insects; removes unwanted species that threaten species native to an ecosystem and recycles nutrients back to the soil.

Prescribed fire specialists compare conditions on the ground to those outlined in burn plans before deciding whether to burn on a given day. A prescribed burn will not be ignited unless the conditions meet the criteria described in the burn plan.

Forest visitors, including hunters, are asked to be aware of their surroundings and watch for prescribed burning operations in the months ahead. Areas where burning operations are taking place will be signed to notify visitors. The public is also encouraged to contact a nearby Forest Service office with questions.

As conditions permit, fire officials will continue to assess ignition of other prescribed fire units across the Black Hills National Forest

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