Defensible Space Inspections

Defensible space refers to the area surrounding a building that is mitigated to protect it from wildfires. Along with the quality of a building’s roofing material, adequate defensible space is one of the most important factors in determining a building’s ability to survive a wildfire and not destroying your home. Ideally, a carefully maintained defensible space will not contain enough fuel to allow a wildfire to reach a house. Even if the space is breached, the fire will have been slowed and weakened, helping firefighters to defend the house.

Fire Doty

A defensible space provides an accessible area for fire trucks to park and firefighters to work during a structure fire. If there is a pond near a burning house, it can be used to replenish a fire truck’s water supply. The perimeter of the pond should be thinned of trees and brush sufficiently so that firefighters can access it.

Trees and shrubs surrounding a house should be trimmed and spaced apart a safe distance from one another. Chainsaws can be used to remove trees and branches, pruning shears to trim plants, and rakes for removing pine needles and other ground-level combustibles. Trees that are very close to the house should be removed because this is where fire-prevention is most critical. Vegetation can be plentiful towards the perimeter of the space if it is green and pruned.

The first 20 feet from a home should be devoid of all flammable vegetation. Firewood and other flammable materials should not be stored within this range.


This area of fuel reduction should extend outward to between 75 to 125 feet from the structure. Trees and large shrubs should be no less than 10 feet apart, especially in steep terrain. Trees must also be pruned to a height of 10 feet from the ground, and removed from the base of the trees. Grass, trees and shrubs  should be green and adequately spaced. Pine needles, dead leaves, branches, dead or dying vegetation and other flammable debris on the ground should be removed whenever they appear.

Buildings can be spared from wildfire damage through the removal of surrounding flammable vegetation. Defensible spaces are critical in hot, dry, forested regions and anywhere in the Black Hills area.

Slash Pile Burn

Slash pile burning on your property

Make your slash pile so they are controllable and 100 feet away from any structure. Your slash piles should be no more than 15’x15′ and no higher than 8′ tall, in order to maintain a controllable fire. All permits must be filed with the Black Hills Forest Fire Protection District, The area covered is identified in South Dakota Codified Law SDCL 34-35-15. Generally, this covers the portion that is south and west of Interstate 90 from the Wyoming state line to exit 61, west of Elk Vale Road from exit 61 to its intersection with Highway 79, west of Highway 79/385 from Elk Vale Road to the Cheyenne River, and north of the Cheyenne River from Highway 385 back to the Wyoming state line.

Incorporated towns and municipalities within this area are not part of the Black Hills Forest Fire Protection District. These towns would include: Springs, Pringle, Custer, Hermosa, Hill City, Keystone, Summerset, Piedmont, Sturgis, Whitewood, Spearfish, Deadwood, Central City and Lead. If you want to conduct open burning in those towns or cities, you would need to contact the local city officials. Black Hills Burn Permits

Black Hills Professional Home Inspections and Black Hills Thermal Imaging can help you monitor your burn piles so they don’t flare back up.

Slash Pile Burning Thermal Imaging monitoring.

Online WildFire Reporting


Paul Reiter
Great Plains Interagency Dispatch Center
8123 South Hwy 16
Rapid City, SD  57702





The location of the fireplace shall be at least ten (10) feet from any overhanging branches, stumps, logs and trees.

FIREPLACE SITE.  The fireplace site shall consist of a circular area with a minimum radius of five (5) feet. The fireplace pad will consist of a circular area with a minimum radius of three (3) feet cleared to mineral soil and/or covered with gravel located in the center of the fireplace site. A concrete pad of the same dimensions may be used in lieu of mineral soil or gravel. The remaining two (2) feet of the five (5) foot radius circular fireplace site may contain vegetation as long as it is three(3) inches in height or less. If the campfire site is surrounded a road, the above B and C can be ignored.

FIREPLACE CONSTRUCTION.   The  fireplace must consist of at least three (3) sides not less than ten (10) inches high. The fireplace must be constructed of noncombustible materials which are fastened or mortared together and in good condition. The fireplace shall be located on the fireplace pad and will be immobile. (Steel fireplaces must be staked down or somehow fastened to the pad).

Black Hills Burn Permits Link


Black Hills Professional Home Inspections
Black Hills Thermal Imaging
Rapid City, South Dakota

©Copyrighted Material