Prescribed Fire

Reducing Hazardous Fuels

Every fall, Black Hills National Forest fire managers look at weather and fuel conditions for conducting prescribed burning operations.

Current Fire Information

Fuels specialists write burn plans for prescribed fires. Burn plans identify – or prescribe – the best conditions under which trees and other plants will burn to get the best results safely. The 21 required elements found in a burn plan consider temperature, humidity, wind, moisture of the vegetation, conditions for the dispersal of smoke, and personnel & equipment requirements for safe implementation. Fuels specialists compare conditions on the ground to those outlined in burn plans before deciding whether to burn.

Firefighters burn to reduce the severity and intensity of wildfires by reducing hazardous fuels that feed wildfires. Burning improves overall forest health by recycling carbon and nutrients into the soil and controlling forest insects. It also increases forage for wildlife, like grass and shrubs, and improves conditions for better wildlife habitat.

Every effort is made to minimize smoke impacts, but you may smell smoke in the early morning and evenings; smoke columns are usually visible in the afternoon.  Communication and coordination occur with the South Dakota Department of Agriculture & Natural Resources and the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality prior to every burn, including pile burning.  Smoke in the air is temporary, and every effort is made to ensure air quality standards are not exceeded. 

Firefighter and public safety is the highest priority in every fire management activity.

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Pile Burning

Districts across the Black Hills National Forest burn thousands of hand and machine slash piles every year. Piles are created from timber sale slash and tree thinning operations.

It is important to reduce fire and insect hazards by reducing fuel buildup which makes fire suppression operations safer during the summer months. 

Smoke may be visible and impact local communities across the Black Hills during the fall, winter and spring as conditions permit. Smoldering material may continue to burn days after burning operations are completed. Firefighters continually monitor and check the piles for several days after they have been lit.

Note: Burn Permits on private land are issued by the State of South Dakota.

To acquire a burn permit, please visit the South Dakota Department of Public Safety Wildland Fire Division webpage at

For more pile burning information and notifications, follow the Black Hills National Forest on the Great Plains Fire Information page:, Facebook: and/or Twitter: