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Gusty Winds Create High Fire Danger

October 17, 2012, 6:06 PM by Derek Olson

Gusty Winds Create High Fire Danger
RAPID CITY, SD -

Those gusty winds had much of the state under a red flag warning on Wednesday.

In 40 to 60 mile per hour wind gusts, it's nearly impossible to do anything outside. And that includes fighting wildfires, particularly on the prairie.

"The fire in the grasslands, that's a lighter fuel and those fires have the potential to grow very large, very quick," Wildland Fire Division Chief Ray Bubb said.

"The wind is going to have a huge, huge deal on any fire that we get today [Wednesday]," Wildland Fire seasonal firefighter Michael Goergen said.

Typically, by mid-October Wildland Fire is beginning to lay off some of its seasonal firefighters for the year.  But with the fire danger remaining high, they're still on duty and ready to go.

"We haven't laid anybody off, so our forces are as strong as they've been for most of the summer," Bubb said.

"Doing things around the shop you always have a radio on you, prepared to go and as soon as we get that call we're out of here," Goergen said.

Despite having firefighters on high-alert, officials hope they aren't needed and are asking people to be careful until the winds die down.

"When we're looking at these windy conditions out here right now we really don't need people out there doing harvesting activities, cutting hay, getting any crops out of the field. It's just too dangerous," Bubb said.

But if a large fire does break out, crews are prepared.

"Our trucks are ready to go.  I mean, we're full of water and ready to rock and roll," Goergen said.

The strong wind is expected to continue through Thursday.  It is likely that seasonal firefighters will be kept on duty until December or January, but that all depends on the weather.

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