Weekend prescribed burn at Wind Cave National Park considered successful

Firefighters from across the region helped Wind Cave National Park staff complete the 308-acre prescribed burn at East Headquarters on Saturday (November 6, 2021). This burn unit consisted of the area between Highway 385 and the north and south access roads of the reception center. Due to time constraints, the second burning unit known as Headquarters South was postponed until weather conditions and resource availability permitted.

Firefighters from South Dakota State, the US Forest Servic and other National Park Service units participated in the prescribed burn. All closures in effect during the burn have been lifted.

“We would like to thank our partners who contributed to the success of this prescribed burn”, said park superintendent Leigh Welling. “It is essential to be able to carry out projects like this when conditions permit. This fire will benefit the park for years to come.

Fire Effect Monitors will study the burned area to determine if the fire has met resource management goals. These goals included reducing the fuel load in the ponderosa pine forest, decreasing the encroachment of young ponderosa pines on the prairie, and improving water flow into the cave.

This fire is a continuation of the prescribed burning program for the park which began in 1972. Segments of the park are burned, under favorable conditions, to simulate natural fires. Prescribed burns maintain the balance between forest and prairie, remove the build-up of dead fuel that reduces the risk of catastrophic forest fires, and rejuvenate native prairie grasses.

A firefighter uses a drip torch to help ignite the East Headquarters fire at Wind Cave.
Photo credit National Park Service.

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