Three National Park Service sites in our area have scheduled prescribed burns for this spring: Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, Scotts Bluff National Monument, and Wind Cave National Park.
Scotts Bluff held its fire, the smallest of the 3 projects, on April 25 – burning 45-acres on the north side of Old Oregon Trail Road.
Park Fire Management Officer Eric Allen says there were no problems with the burn, which was conducted by personnel from multiple agencies.
Wind Cave is planning the largest prescribed burn, over a thousand acres, adjacent to the Elk Mountain Campground – a dense and open ponderosa pine forest with a grass understory.
It’s also a wildland urban interface area with structures in the park’s headquarters area and a nearby private residence. Wind Cave Chief of Interpretation Tom Farrell says the burn will reduce the danger of wildfires and the spread of trees into the prairie.
Farrell says Wind Cave has been conducting prescribed burns since 1972 to simulate the historical pattern of fire in the region to maintain the ecosystem and guard against fuel buildup that could trigger major wildfires.
Agate Fossil Beds is preparing for the 255-acre River North/Carnegie prescribed fire on the north side of River Road in the eastern portion of the park. It’s expected to take one day to complete, followed by several days of monitoring.
Crews from the NPS Northern Great Plains Fire Management Office have prepared the perimeter of the burn unit and put protections in place near structures.
As at Scotts Bluff and Wind Cave, the Agate burn is intended to reduce fuels that could cause major wildfires and to remove non-native vegetation.
Prescribed burns are held only if conditions such as temperature, humidity, wind, and dryness of fuels fall within a narrow range of levels. If not, burns are postponed.