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Wildfire monitoring tools

Black Hills Energy deploys a complex set of fire weather assessment tools, metrics and monitoring to continually evaluate forecasted severe weather events and fire risk in our service territory. Our Reliability Center monitors conditions on a 24x7 basis. Monitoring tools include:

  • Weather conditions through comprehensive meteorological data
  • Wildfire warnings and watches issued by the National Weather Service
  • Drought conditions assessed by the U.S. Drought Monitor
  • Current and predicted weather considerations as well as wildfire risk. A specialized application provides an Energy Event Index (EEI) for Black Hills Electric Utilities. Status updates and predictions support proactive action that balances operational need with the appropriate risk mitigation.

Fire weather watches and warnings


Helpful information from the National Weather Service:

Fire Weather Watch: Be Prepared

  • A Fire Weather Watch means critical fire weather conditions are possible but not imminent or occurring.
  • Weather conditions are conducive to extensive wildfire occurrence or extreme fire behavior.
  • Issued to alert land management agencies of the potential that an agency may issue a Red Flag warning within the next 12 hours.
  • A Fire Weather Watch is issued generally 12 to 48 hours, and up to 72 hours, in advance of high fire conditions. The watch remains in effect until it expires, is canceled or upgraded to a Red Flag Warning.

Red Flag Warning: Take Action

  • A Red Flag Warning means high fire danger with increased probability of a quickly spreading vegetation fire in the area within 24 hours.
  • Fire conditions, mainly dry and windy weather, are currently present and a fire could easily ignite and spread quickly.
  • Outdoor burning bans may also be proclaimed by local law and fire agencies based on Red Flag Warnings.
  • Avoid using lawn mowers on dry vegetation, chainsaws, mowers and other equipment during high-risk times.
  • No burning of any kind is recommended during a Red Flag Warning, even if you're using a grill, especially a charcoal grill.

Extreme Red Flag Warning

  • Conditions for fire growth and behavior are extremely dangerous due to a combination of strong winds, very low humidity and very dry fuels.
  • A wildfire is likely to rage out of control.
  • It is hard to predict these fires because they behave erratically, sometimes dangerously. One or more of the following criteria must be met:
    • Moving fast: high rate of speed
    • Prolific crowning: when the fire burns through the top layer of foliage on a tree or shrubs.
    • Presence of fire whirls: when the fire induces a whirlwind, or fire often composed of flame or ash.