• County expecting continued dry summer, persisting into fall
BROOKINGS – Open burning is again banned in Brookings County, thanks to dry conditions that the fire department and county commissioners deem too dangerous.
The Brookings County Commission voted Tuesday to declare a fire emergency in Brookings County and to prohibit open burning.
On May 22, commissioners rescinded a ban that they’d put into effect Sep. 27 of last year. A wet spring and green foliage had reduced the danger of fire this spring, but the dryness has returned, Brookings Fire Chief Darrell Hartmann said Tuesday.
“Also, looking at the long-range weather forecast, we’re really not seeing a lot of precip,” he said. “And, even if we get some now, a lot of the grass and stuff went dormant. So, I think we’re going to have a – hopefully uneventful – but very active season.
“I think we’ll see what we’ve been receiving. You know, a couple tenths here, a couple tenths there, just nothing to add up to break this drought for us.”
Hartmann said he has talked with fire chiefs in the county and Sheriff Marty Stanwick, and they agree the ban should be reinstated, though it does cause extra work for the fire departments.
Asked whether this prohibition has any teeth to it, Hartmann said the sheriff and fire department will offer a grace period to people who burn when the ban is newly in effect. But, those who violate it after a time will be handed a significant fine.
Stanwick said he sends a deputy to every fire call in the county, so the sheriff can follow up on anything that looks like arson. He also sends a deputy to investigate a report of smoke, if that location has not received a burn permit or called the fire department before burning. With or without a ban, anyone intending to burn must call the fire department before they light anything.
Hartmann noted that people are still allowed to burn during the ban, but only with a permit.
“They have to stop and think about it, get a permit before they do the burn,” he said. “I know in our area, we’ve had people come in, and you get that opportunity to talk with them, and all of a sudden it’s, ‘OK, I don’t want a permit, I don’t want to burn. I’ll see what comes later.’ I know some people have been waiting for a year or two to get certain areas burned.”
Commissioners Dennis Falken and Alan Gregg noted that the ban is to help keep county residents safe. If someone burns while this ban is in place and everything is dry, they could damage their neighbor’s property and would be held liable.
Commissioners voted unanimously to declare a fire danger emergency and prohibit open burning. “I think we’re all of the same opinion, that we want to take every precaution that we possibly can, and this is the one way that we can help out,” said Commission Chair Deanna Santema.
Contact Charis Prunty at email@example.com.