Rapid City, SD – The annual Dakotas Society of American Foresters conference theme this year is “protecting our communities and forests from destructive wildfires.”

An “A list” of top fire commanders and foresters will gather on May 1 in Rapid City at the Ramkota Hotel to spend a day hearing from experts in many specialty areas about topics like the role utilities play in fire prevention, what firefighters are doing to blunt major wildfire effects, and how local, state, and federal government agencies and entities can team together to prevent wildfires and prepare for coming fires.

As a special feature, fire commanders and foresters will consider the likely outcome of major wildfires in Custer and Hill City, SD.

Anticipated fire behavior and fire progress will be simulated using a wildfire simulation sand table from the Nebraska Forest Service. The 2018 Camp fire that burned Paradise, CA has been a source of great concern across the West, and is giving new urgency to understanding how to defend vulnerable communities, said Tom Troxel, a former firefighter, forester, and DSAF member.

Among the speakers at the one-day conference is keynote speaker Dr. Peter Kolb, the Montana State University extension forester, whose experience with the recent Lolo Peak Fire provided valuable lessons and insights about fire suppression strategies in community defense.

National fire commanders Todd Pechota and Jay Esperance will join North Dakotan Ryan Melin to discuss their experience leading firefighters in major wildfires across the West.

Chris White from Anchor Point Group will describe best practices in fire and fuels management planning, and a Colorado state forester, Nathan Beckman, will discuss an important partnership between the City of Denver, the State, and the US Forest Service called the “Forests to Faucets Partnership.”

John Goodfellow will discuss some perspectives on utilities and wildfires in light of the recent bankruptcy of Pacific Gas and Electric company in California. Darren Clabo, SD State fire meteorologist, will discuss issues in fuel management and smoke dispersal.

May 2, the group will attend a field trip, open to the public, including multiple stops to explore recently completed fuels mitigation projects in the vicinity of Rapid City. Local professionals will provide a background for each site to promote discussion.

Troxel said conference organizers are hoping state and local government officials, elected and appointed, will attend. “Without preplanning, wildfires are devastating and deadly for small communities surrounded by wildlands and forests,” Troxel said. The town of Paradise is still reeling from the Camp Fire last year, he said.

Registration is open. Visit the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/events/1022150584655977/ for conference and registration details. Registration is open at the Ramkota from 7:30-8 am Wednesday, May 1.


Frank Carroll
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