Permits help first responders track controlled burns

People may see smoke in the skies as prescribed fires are used to clear fields, burn debris and other uses.

Currently, Day County is one of the few counties in northeast South Dakota with a burn ban in effect. The burn ban does not completely ban all outdoor burning but requires individuals apply for a free permit through the Day County Sheriff’s Office before they commence burning. Permits are not required for camp fires, burning of material in barrels or small trash piles. Permits will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis and granted depending on the weather conditions. The ordinance which encompasses the burn ban is ordinance #03-01 and is about 10 years old. Day County Commissioners granted the Day County Office of Emergency Management power to declare a fire emergency and to limit open burning. The ordinance was passed during a time of dry conditions and to prevent needless activations of volunteer fire departments. Commissioners can lift the burn ban ordinance.

Day County Office of Emergency Management Director Bryan Anderson said the permit is important for local volunteer fire departments to know if they need to respond to a reported fire. He said with the permit on file, Day County dispatch and local fire departments will know if the call is about a prescribed fire or not, at which point agencies will respond to the call. When a permit is granted from the sheriff’s office, the local fire department, the city nearest to the burn and local landing strips should be notified.

When someone does want to file for a permit to do a prescribed burn they will need to meet the guidelines set forth by Day County. Wind direction will need to be taken into account as smoke should not negatively impact residences, nor should smoke reduce visibility on public roadways. No hazardous material should be burned. The amount of dirt in the material burned should be limited to reduce smoldering embers. Burns should occur right after sunrise or just before sunset to help prevent air inversions.

Individuals will need to have equipment on hand to control the prescribed burn and to respond accordingly if the fire gets out of hand. This includes fields which are under the Conservation Reserve Program through the United States Department of Agriculture. Burning fields is a way to prevent overgrowth of grasses by removing grass which has become matted and is preventing new grass from growing, according to the USDA.

Neighboring counties are looking at the Day County burn ban ordinance themselves to help prevent unneeded rural fire department activations to respond to reports of fires, according to Anderson.