If not for the timing on the calendar, Davison County might have implemented burn restrictions to combat a dry summer’s fire risk.
But the realities of the upcoming July 4 holiday, the inevitability of locals shooting off fireworks and the medium level on the county’s new fire-risk scale have contributed to holding off on putting any restrictions on. That decision was reached during the Tuesday, June 22 Davison County Commission meeting with the commission and county Emergency Management Director Jeff Bathke.
Bathke said he would have recommended restrictions if there would be a high-risk rating, but he said at this point, he hopes local residents would use common sense regarding open burning. He said the county has to also be realistic about the enforceability of fireworks rules and sales.
Putting on a burn restriction right now would come as the state’s fireworks retail locations can begin business on June 27 through July 5. He said law enforcement has to physically see someone shoot off fireworks if they’re in violation of an ordinance, which is a high bar to clear.
“If you tell a local fireworks store that bought $300,000 worth of fireworks that, ‘Sorry, you can’t sell,’ they’re never going to be in business again,” Bathke said.
Bathke said a burn ban in Davison County traditionally only pertains to open burning of fence rows, fields, wild lands, trash and debris, plus the use of private fireworks. It excludes stoves, fireplaces, backyard fires at homes and firepits, plus fire pits at supervised and developed picnic areas and campgrounds.
“And most of the people who do this type of open burning, they know when it’s too dry to be burning,” Bathke said. “It really comes down to common sense.”
This was the first application of a new metric that Bathke created at the request of the Davison County Commission for evaluating when to put on burning restrictions. It evaluated eight areas, ranging from the last date of precipitation, average temperature and wind speed in the last seven days, drought level, recent unaccounted fires and the South Dakota Grasslands Fire Danger status. It assigned one point for low risk, two points for a medium risk and three points for high risk statistics, with a maximum of 24 points.
Bathke also talked to the fire departments in Ethan, Mitchell and Mount Vernon and said there has only been one unaccounted fire since May 1 in the county. The point system came out to 14 points, with the recommendation for a burn ban to be made if the daily score is 16 or higher.
If the county would have fallen in the high-risk category, Bathke said he would have recommended a ban. The risk chart is more objective in helping to make a decision, Bathke said, rather than being based on any one person’s opinion. The rationale is available at the county’s website on the Emergency Management page under "Burn Ban Information."