RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - 90% of all wildland fires are human caused in the United States. Many times they are started by unsuspecting people doing everyday activities. Last year, almost 6 million acres were burned by human caused fires according to a National Interagency Fire Center Report.
The risk of fire increases when hot and dry conditions are met with an ignition source, that could be as simple as throwing away a cigarette.
Jerome Harvey is the Fire Administrator for the Pennington County Fire Service, he says the influx of people into South Dakota could pose a risk for more fires.
“There are people coming into the area that are either visiting here or moving here that are not aware of the fire regime, the fire ecosystem that exists here in western South Dakota. That not only concerns us the fire service, but anyone or everyone that has lived here, or spent anytime here in western South Dakota.” Harvey said.
One common mistake made by visitors is having a campfire in a place it shouldn’t be.
“The people that are visiting our grasslands that do not realize where they’re at, whether they are on private grounds or federal grounds... that are doing dispersed camping, and have fire pits or campfires that are not permitted,” Harvey said.
It is not just campfires that pose a risk, Harvey adds there are lots of ways a fire can start.
“Simple things like take care of your chains on the back of your trailer, making sure your machinery is good to go, so you’re not having a hot bearing.... Those things are just as important as knowing where to have a campfire and where not to have a campfire,” Harvey said.
Last year more than 700 human caused fires burned over 13,000 acres in South Dakota according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
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