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Devastating Wildfire Risk High In Rapid City

July 9, 2012, 10:01 PM by Derek Olson

Devastating Wildfire Risk High In Rapid City
RAPID CITY, SD -

The Black Hills are seeing a bit of a reprieve after a string of destructive wildfires in the area.  But that doesn't mean people there are breathing easy.  That's because Rapid City could be at risk for devastation similar to what happened recently in Fort Collins and Colorado Springs, where hundreds of homes were burned.

"It was just devastating to watch on TV, and to think that we could potentially be next.  That's not a chance that we wanted to take," Rapid City homeowner Vicky Kirkeby said.

A new map from the Rapid City Fire Department shows the areas within the city that are at risk for catastrophic wildfires.

"What we have is a build up of fuel and a build up of structures.  And that combination usually lends itself to big, big problems for fire departments across the country," Rapid City Fire Department Lt. Tim Weaver said.

Now the city is encouraging homeowners to clean up the fuels that have been accumulating on their properties.  But it's a job that can be expensive.

"No, this is not cheap work.  It's something that people really need a helping hand with otherwise they probably wouldn't be doing it and we could end up like Colorado," Kirkeby said.

City and state grants are helping homeowners pay for some of the costs associated with cleaning up their property.  But not all of the prevention efforts cost money.

"Simply cleaning out the debris, keeping it clean, keeping the grass back, get some separation, keep your gutters clean; all those things are simple and easy to do and in many cases free.  Those things go a long way toward helping your home survive a wildfire event," Weaver said.

"We've done so much over the last 40 years and it's so beautiful that we'd hate to see that swept away in a matter of a day, which could happen.  And it's not 'could' happen; if we don't do this it will happen," Kirkeby said.

It's also good to have an escape plan in place because of how quickly these fires can move.  For more information on how to protect your property from wildfires or how to participate in Rapid City's program visit Firewise.org, Fireadapted.org, or the Rapid City Fire Department's website.

Click on the picture below to see a larger image of the map from the Rapid City Fire Department.

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