A big patch of smoke and haze fell upon Dickinson, and some of the surrounding communities yesterday.
It appeared to be coming from the Badlands.
“I was kind wondering what was going on, but I realized it was just a controlled burn,” said Michael Wigert, who is student at Dickinson State University.
It wasn’t just any controlled burn.
The “Doughnut Hole” prescribed fire is the largest burn in Theodore Roosevelt National Park history
“The reason that this area is so large is because it is pretty hard to burn just part of it, “said Eileen Andes, TRNP Chief of Interpretation and Public Affair.
She is also said the park has been planning the burn for about five years, and weather is a big factor when planning.
Temperature, wind direction, relative humidity, and topography are just some of things that have to be taken into consideration before starting a prescribed burn said Andes.
The prescription is within a 12,000 acre perimeter, and Andes said prescribed burns are best done in the Spring before things get too green and moist.
“Green vegetation just doesn’t burn. You have to get the right temperature and fuel moisture”.
She also said prescribed burns should not be done in the Summer season.
“First of all it is our high visitor season, and it is to too hot and dry in this part of the region”.
Andes also said it would be hard to get assistance from other agencies later in the season.
“On this particular fire we had help from the fish and wildlife service, North Dakota State Forestry, and several other national parks”.
About 50 people and eight engines assisted in the burn, and some of them had to walk through 10 to 12 miles of tough terrain to do it.
Andes said Theodore Roosevelt National Park is doing the prescribed burn in part to reduce potential fire fuels such as Junipers.
“If there is . . say a lighting strike in a dry year . . . there isn’t as much fuel to burn at that time”.
She also said it improves grazing for the park’s native animals.
“Another benefit is the black areas(burn areas) . . . are going to be green in a very short period of time. . . like a week or two . . . that is where you are going to see wild life. It is like an open salad bar”.
The park started the burn Friday morning and hopes to finish up sometime on Saturday.
Park ranger Lincoln Eddy said it could be a couple of days before trails such as Jones Creek, Lower Paddock Creek, Lower Talkington, Badlands Spur, and Roundup are open, as park officials are still monitoring the areas.
“There could be smoldering, and some of the areas could be unstable,” said Eddy.
Scenic Loop Drive in the Park’s South Unit was re-opened Saturday
Andes said a prescribed burn is planned for the North Unit, but a date is still to be determined.