Yankton County enacts burn ban with exceptional drought
YANKTON, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Parts of South Dakota are now the driest they’ve been since almost a decade ago. Some counties in the state are now experiencing the strongest drought stages on the scale, and are hoping for rain before winter comes.
Yankton County is one of those counties in the state hit the hardest by the ongoing dry spell. The county enacted an ongoing burn ban this past weekend, with much of the county in an exceptional drought stage according to the latest drought monitor. The county is about 11 to 12 inches behind on rainfall, and Emergency Management Director Paul Scherschlight said hasn’t let up all year.
“We’ve been getting spot rains here and there, but it’s nothing consistent over the county. And then when we do get some rains, the next day the wind blows 30 or 40 mph. It dries it all out, and we’re back to the same conditions,” Scherschlight said. “In 2012 and 2013, it started early in the year and it was dry all summer long. Here, we kind of started out alright, even though we were dry with no moisture and not much snow through the winter. It was kind of like we may change. Then all of a sudden, it went the other way early in April and May.”
That’s quickly turning things for the worse all across the county. While many areas are not as visibly dry as they were almost a decade ago, any spark could set things off.
“Everything is starting to really turn brown now. There is a concern with the winds. The wind always blows it seems like any more in our area and South Dakota for that matter. Any small fire could turn into something big.” Scherschlight said.
The ban is also meant to help fire crews save the resources they have for the whole county. Yankton Fire Department Deputy Chief Larry Nickles said people should be calling them anyways to report any planned burns. But right now is not normal conditions.
“That’s when they find out that we’re in a burn ban or what the drought is doing for that day, so we can kind of help keep control of that. That helps us out a lot. That way we get out of a lot of false calls.” Nickles said.
Scherschlight said he understands many frustrations that people may have with the ban. But he said it’s the only way they can make sure to keep fires under control, and keep damage to a minimum.
“We ask people, and we thank them for being conscious and not doing stuff. But please don’t burn. Right now, we just can’t have that happening.” Scherschlight said.
Unlike previous burn bans, Scherschlight said this one will stay in effect indefinitely until the county receives some much needed moisture.
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