Proudly Serving the Hulet and Devils Tower Community

Forest Service imposes fire restrictions

The U.S. Forest Service has followed the lead of local counties, cities and state agencies in calling for fire restrictions within the Black Hills National Forest.

Black Hills National Forest Supervisor Jeff Tomac has signed a special order BKFfor Stage 1 Fire Restrictions on both the Bearlodge and Hell Canyon Ranger Districts. The restrictions became effective at the end of last week.

In a press release, the U.S. Forest Service stated that restrictions are not taken lightly, but are necessary due to dry fuel conditions, persistent fire weather patterns and the danger of human-caused wildfires. Recent dry, windy and hot weather has resulted in elevated fire danger.

Violation of the restrictions is punishable as a misdemeanor and carries a potential fine of up to $5000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization; imprisonment for up to six months; or both. If an offender is found to have negligently or willfully started a wildland fire, they may also be held responsible for the costs associated with that fire.

Under the restrictions, visitors to the forest may only use the concrete or metal fire pits and grates provided by the Forest Service within its recreation sites, such as campgrounds and picnic areas. It is not permitted to build a fire outside these amenities.

The restrictions include charcoal or briquette fires, we well as personal, portable wood or charcoal burning fire pits or rings.

Smoking is not permitted within the forest, except within an enclosed building or vehicle or a developed recreation site, or while stopped in an area that is at least three feet in diameter and barren of all flammable material.

Operating a chainsaw without an approved spark arrestor, a chemical pressurized fire extinguisher and a round point shovel available for use is not permitted. Blasting, welding and operation of acetylene or other torch with an open flame is only permitted in a cleared area at least ten feet in diameter with a chemical fire extinguisher available.

Use of explosives is also prohibited, including fuses, blasting caps, fireworks, rockets, exploding targets, tracers and incendiary ammunition.

According to its press release, U.S. Forest Service staff will continue to monitor conditions to assess the need for further action. Additional restrictions may be necessary if the weather remains hot and dry; conversely, the restrictions could be reduced if a wetter weather pattern develops.