Residents may have noticed more smoke in the air this winter, but a little inconvenience now could help prevent a major headache next fire season.

Black Hills Forest Service officials and other government agencies have been ramping up slash pile burning efforts in the last few weeks. This has caused smoke to linger through the Hills, but also serves as a way to remove fuel from the forest and help prevent large fires.

“It is very important to reduce fire and insect hazards by reducing fuel buildup,” Todd Pechota, Black Hills National Forest Fire Management Officer, said in a release. “Being able to reduce these fuels this time of year makes fire suppression operations safer during the summer months.”  

The wet and snowy winter has added the group's ability to burn large slash piles.

"It had been a few years since we have had a good snow year like this winter," Toby Cook, fire management officer for the Mystic Ranger Station, said. "The amount of snow we are getting is good, and it is sticking around for a while, which is important."

Cook said in years past, snow would fall and then be gone because of high temperatures within a week. Those conditions don't allow for much slash pile burning. 

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In the past week, the Forest Service has been burning piles across the Black Hills including, piles by Merrett Estes Road near Suger Shack, Limestone Plateau south of Savoy and south of Hill City.

Bureau of Land Management is burning piles in Meade and Lawrence counties this winter. According to a release, about 700 piles of nonmarketable timber and debris are located on the Fort Meade Recreation Area near Sturgis, near the Englewood and Wilderness Estates subdivisions south of Lead and near Mount Roosevelt west of Deadwood.

The piles are mostly what is left over when a logging company thins an area, and from tree thinning operations to help fight the mountain pine beetle. 

Expect burning operations to continue throughout the winter as long as there is snow on the ground.

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