Did you know...nearly 9 out of 10 wildfires are caused by people? It's always wildfire season somewhere in the United States and every region of the country has wildfires. Wildfires are one of the greatest threats to our nation's forests today. Wildfires know no boundaries and can happen on federal lands, state forests, and right outside your home. No matter where you are, it is essential to be aware of dry and hazardous conditions and always practice fire safety. Here are just a few ways you can help prevent wildfires:
- Children can easily learn about fire prevention. Additional fire prevention information for children can be found at Smokey Bear's website.
- State law and current prevention orders on the Black Hills National Forest prohibit restrict the use of campfires to only designated campfire grates at developed recreation areas, campgrounds or picnic areas on Black Hills National Forest Service lands in South Dakota. Campfires on private lands within the Black Hills Forest Fire Protection District must be permitted.
- When putting a campfire out, drown it with water. Stir the fire with water and dirt until all burned material is cold to the touch. If you can't touch it, don't leave it!
- Campers are asked to be careful with gas lanterns, barbeques, gas stoves and anything else that can be a source of ignition for a wildfire.
- During times of high, very high, or extreme fire danger, smoking of tobacco products should only be done inside vehicles or structures. It is against state law in South Dakota to discard any burning cigarette, cigar or pipe ash, embers or butts from a vehicle.
- Keep vehicles off of dry grass. Exhaust systems can heat up to 1,000 degrees and ignite adjacent grasses and shrubs. Park only in designated parking areas or over non-flammable surfaces (such as graveled or dirt areas), and never in tall grass.
- Dragging trailer safety chains, flat tires-rims striking the pavement, dragging metal, hot trailer wheel bearings, and parking in dry weeds are some of the leading causes of wildfires in South Dakota. One Less Spark-One Less Wildfire is a campaign to raise awareness about the leading causes of wildfires and how they can be prevented. Everyone can do their part to reduce the risk of human-caused wildfires.
- Each year, farm and construction machinery and equipment are the cause of numerous wildfires. With a little extra care, most of these fires are easily preventable. Remove accumulated grass and debris away from exhaust systems and bearings. Make sure all bearings are lubricated. Service all spark arresters. Keep a shovel, water and working fire extinguisher on the equipment. When excavating hard rocks with backhoes or excavators, make sure the bucket does not spark a fire when coming into contact with a rock or metal.
- Welding and cutting torch operations need to be conducted during times of low fire danger or with extinguishing agents or water in close proximity of actual operations.
- Electric fences need to be maintained with proper clearance with allowable power transformer requirements to be met at all times.
- When target shooting, remember to make it a point to know the regulations and rules related to shooting in areas experiencing dry and hot conditions, whether on public or private land or at shooting ranges. Many national forests, for example, do not allow recreational shooting when fire restrictions are in effect. Consider the type of ammunition and targets you are using. Minimize the risk of fires by not using steel jacketed ammunition, ammunition with steel-core components, tracer rounds or in fire prone areas. USFS regulations prohibit the use of exploding targets on all US Forest Service lands in South Dakota. In addition, state law prohibits the use of exploding targets that have been banned within the Black Hills Forest Fire Protection District.
- Sky Lanterns have caused structure fires and wildfires from use on hot, dry and windy days. Please be very careful when using them and check local laws and ordinances before their use. Fireworks are the leading cause of wildfires during the first week of July. Please follow local rules and ordinances with regards to the use of fireworks and keep in mind that the sale or use of fireworks in the Black Hills Forest Fire Protection District is prohibited by state law and on federal lands throughout the state. In addition, the discharge of fireworks is prohibited by state law on all Game, Fish, and Parks owned lands in the state.
- Report any sign of smoke or fire immediately. Children should not try to put out a fire themselves. This is a job for an adult.
The goal of the fire prevention and community preparedness program is to reduce the number of human-caused wildfires and educate homeowners, who live in South Dakota's Wildland Urban Interface, on how to take measures to protect their homes, property and personal safety. Public outreach and education is the driving force of these programs, this is primarily done through promoting and partnering cooperating agencies, the Wildfire Awareness Month planning committee, and the Great Plains Fire Safe Council!
Know before you go! If your vacation will take you outdoors, check the Black Hills Fire Restrictions website for the most up-to-date information on fire restrictions.
Fire Incident Information
If you have questions about a specific fire or are making travel plans to the Great Plains area, the Great Plains Fire Information blog is the best source for information for small fires while Inciweb covers large fires. The National Interagency Fire Center website also provides information, including a daily fire situation report.
Fire Investigations and Fire Trespass
South Dakota Wildland Fire Division is mandated by law to determine the origin and cause of wildfires within our jurisdiction. The fire prevention program uses this information to help ensure that the prevention messages being used are pertinent to what human-caused fires are occurring.
All wildfires which occur on or that damage state and private lands are investigated and cost recovery actions taken to recover the cost of suppression paid by the State of South Dakota. Even the smallest of fires can cost several thousand dollars; the larger more complex fires, millions. Those costs do not include the loss of homes, the memories and belongings of homeowners, or in the worst case scenario, the loss of human life.
Most human-caused wildfires are preventable. Think of the consequences and do your part to prevent wildfires before they start.
To request a visit from Smokey Bear at your school or special fire/safety event, please send an email to: email@example.com or call 605-393-8011.
Requests must be received at least a month in advance and must also meet certain criteria to be eligible. Smokey Bear cannot attend commercial "mascot events" or private functions such as birthday parties.
For more information regarding how the division can assist you with fire prevention and preparedness needs, contact:
Fire Prevention and Public Information Officer
3305 West South Street
Rapid City, SD 57702