A report released Tuesday confirms what many thought about the April 13 prescribed burn that went awry at Wind Cave National Park, torching 6,240 acres before scores of firefighters could extinguish it.
The 62-page report prepared by a federal interagency team of fire-management specialists says the National Park Service team underestimated how dangerously dry conditions were at the time and did not provide adequate fire protection in the event it spread beyond the planned 1,000 acres, which it began to do about three-and-half hours after ignition.
The report, however, did shed light on a near tragedy when a UTV that a National Park Service employee and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service worker were riding in rolled and then was consumed by the fire. The two managed to escape injury, but it was a close call.
The biggest red flag in the report was the revelations of a “let’s burn” mindset among the fire crew and that one fire management officer had a “gung-ho” attitude about how about much fuel would be burned that day.
While we appreciate enthusiasm from our federal workers, this provides valuable insight into why the fire team pulled the trigger despite the high fire danger signs and warnings that were commonplace during a hot and dry spring already punctuated by a number of fires.