In the last few years, the nation has questioned when the “wildfire season” truly happens. A decade ago, most would tell you that it typically happens in the late summer and early autumn months. People often cite hot temperatures, dry conditions and frequent lightning strikes as the main causes in many devastating wildfires.
These days, more states are becoming aware of how high the chances are for wildfires are for the whole year. California’s multiple disastrous wildfires in 2018 is a prime example of how they can happen just about any time during the year. Even though California has a significantly different environment from South Dakota, local ranchers shouldn’t assume that they can rest easy once it gets colder outside. They need to be aware of the potential risks that can cause wildfires during the winter.
When it comes to natural causes starting wildfires, experts frequently bring up lightning. Since winter has much colder temperatures, snow and little to no lightning storms, many assume that this is the ideal weather for avoiding wildfires.
Unfortunately, you don’t have to go too far back to find an example proving how wrong that assumption is. In 2017, the Black Hills experienced their third largest wildfire in the form of the Legion Lake Fire. The cause of this was high winds pushing a fallen tree into a power line. The snow and cold temperatures did little to contain the catastrophe. According to The Washington Post, the winter months are the windiest time of the year in what they found to be the second windiest state of the nation. Property owners should routinely check on trees to make sure high gusts won’t tear them down near dangerous areas any time soon.
The Polar Vortex of 2019 reminds us just how cold it can get in the Midwest during the winter. Understandably, outside workers may want to construct a campfire during some of their longer shifts. If you plan to do so, make sure you are following South Dakota’s fire laws and be cautious on when you choose to have the fire. Days with heavy amounts of wind can make it very difficult to contain.
People that try to heat themselves inside can also put their neighbors at risk. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, half of the fires caused by home heating equipment occurs in the winter months. If any house on or near your property starts burning, it may not be long until it reaches your ranch. They can happen from placing flammable material near heat sources, having too many heating appliances go at once or poor placements of heaters and portable generators.
A large percentage of wildfires are caused by human error, and winter is a season where many people underestimate seasonal conditions. You need to make sure your surroundings are prepared for the higher winds and to be careful if you plan on starting a fire outside. If someone else started a winter fire that costed you thousands of dollars in property damage, consider seeking legal help to make financial recovery easier.