It may seem early, but wildfire season is already underway in the Black Hills. That has fire crews bracing for another busy season.
A 107-acre tract of scorched earth in southern Custer County isn't a rare sight in the Black Hills. But that it burned just last week signals another early start to fire season.
"Obviously, conditions are very dry and with the winds we have this time of year, it doesn't take very much and the fire will go. Things will burn very readily, and people just need to take extreme caution," Roger Willey said.
Willey works with the Argyle Volunteer Fire Department and was one of the first on the scene.
"The smoke was obviously laying on the ground because the fire was wind driven. It was tough to distinguish exactly what he had initially because of that," Willey said.
The East Argyle Fire was started on Monday by a slash pile that had burned a month earlier. That's how dry it is and officials are concerned that it's not going to get any better.
"By looking at some of the computer models and things, the Black Hills is probably drier now than it was a year ago at this time," Custer Volunteer Fire Department Assistant Chief Bill Bell said.
The Custer Volunteer Fire Department is already training its members, preparing them for the physical and mental rigors that are sure to come with another intense wildfire season.
"A fire now and then, that's one thing. But if we really start a busy fire season, it's easy to get folks burned out," Bell said.
Still, many are holding out hope that spring rains will come and wash away some of their worry.
"We could get rain. Nobody knows for sure, 100 percent, but hopefully we will get some precipitation and will not see another one like last year," Willey said.
Crews were busy Monday morning as well. They quickly contained a small one-and-a-half acre fire in Custer County east of Hermosa.