The Wind Cave/Cold Brook prescribed burn-turned-wildfire caused a brief stretch of poor air quality in Rapid City on Tuesday. Hot Springs stayed smokier longer. (I check right now and find air quality is worse in Sioux Falls than in Rapid City.)
But Larry Kurtz turns his wonderful contrarianism on the Cold Brook fire and says the breakout burn is a net plus for the Southern Hills:
Despite some strong gusty winds the fire is 30% contained and consuming invasive cheatgrass at rates the previous human inhabitants of the Black Hills would have yawned.
600 years ago 20 million bison migrating north would be cropping those grasses ahead of Spring thunderstorms while people following them gathered dry dung to fuel campfires.
The Rocky Mountain Type II Interagency Incident Management Team ordered will ensure that structures are protected; and, the event will give way to greening conditions after light rain forecast for this weekend.
As the Black Hills fire risk increases, good on the US Park Service for bringing attention to a century of destructive fire suppression [Larry Kurtz, “Wind Cave Area Residents: Chill,” Interested Party, 2015.04.15].
In today’s sign of the Apocalypse, the mainstream press finds some agreement with Larry Kurtz:
[Wind Cave chief interpreter Tom] Farrell doesn’t look at this prescribed burn turned wildfire as a tragedy for the park.
“Obviously it wasn’t something we were planning to do but within a few months, it’s going to be really hard to tell that there was a fire here,” Farrell said.
He said the burn area will probably be some of the lushest in the park come June. He thinks it may actually be more attractive to visitors.
“So we actually expect a lot of wildlife to be in the southern part of the park as things green up,” Farrell said [Cindy Davis, “Unplanned Wildfire Not All Bad for Wind Cave,” KOTA-TV, 2015.04.15].
Kevin Woster notes that park officials aimed the burn toward the entire of the park, minimizing the risk to private land and structures.
Kurtz links to Wildfire Today, whose post on the Cold Brook fire includes the Monday morning, April 13, official weather forecast on which Wind Cave National Park officials predicated the go-ahead for Monday’s prescribed burn: light and variable winds and “very low potential for large plume dominated fire growth.”
Still think the National Park Service made a mistake? Well, fire away….