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Fire officials investigate a fire at South Dakota Mines’ outdoor Living Lab

Published: Aug. 16, 2021 at 4:12 PM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - South Dakota Mines’ new outdoor Living Laboratory was partially taken out by a fire earlier this August.

The lab was designed and constructed by students and volunteers in a community effort to study long-term erosion on barren land.

The West Dakota Water Development-funded lab has 26 units, 9 of which were hit by the fire. This caused an estimated $5,000-$10,000 worth of damage.

A research scientist from the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, Heidi Sieverding, said the damages mean all prior data on the test units needs to be recollected, a disappointing feat for students.

”It was pretty heartbreaking for them and for us spending pretty much all summer building the plots and then most of the winter planning and developing them to see them, a proximity a week before they were fully, fully done, damaged,” said Sieverding.

Some of the plots require minimal repair while other units are destroyed. Sieverding said the silver lining in the otherwise disappointing situation is that the fire can be incorporated into the learning process.

“Fire is a natural part of the ecology and grassland systems and forest systems in the Black Hills. So, were looking at different ways that we could potentially incorporate the effects of the fire and learn from this experience to really help improve the project as much as we can,” said Sieverding.

Rapid City Fire Officials are investigating the cause of the fire and believe it was human-made.

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