South Dakota Firefighters Make Wildfire Protection Guide

August 16, 2012

Firefighters in drought-ridden southeastern South Dakota are distributing a guide to help homeowners protect themselves against wildfires, after a close call earlier this month.

The effort spearheaded by Yankton County Deputy Fire Chief Larry Nickles comes after an Aug. 5 fire endangered two homes.

“It flashed the yards,” Nickles told the Press & Dakotan newspaper. “One yard it went over so fast that it didn’t even burn it. It’s burnt on top, but if you get in it, it didn’t burn through. It got into some pine trees, too. We didn’t have any wind that day, and it still took off like we had a 20 mph wind. It gives you an indication of how dry it is.”

The U.S. Drought Monitor shows that the region is in extreme drought.

“I’ve been doing this 33 years, and I’ve never seen it this dry,” Nickles said.

The wildfire protection guide is being distributed to area residents this week through a local shopper publication. Tips range from vegetation management to garden hose placement. It also suggests that people visit , a project of the National Fire Protection Association that features a variety of information about wildfire safety.

Officials also plan to post a dozen signs around the county saying “Please Use Your Ashtray.” Authorities believe a cigarette was the cause of the Aug. 5 fire.

“There was a police officer and a couple of firefighters on scene pretty fast,” Nickles said. “They pulled the garden hoses and got it stopped around the houses. That’s close to town (Yankton). If you put that same scenario out at the Lewis and Clark Lake, where the response time can be 10 minutes, it would have been a whole different ball game.”

In South Dakota, wildfires are associated more with the forest land in the western part of the state.

“Our goal is to make sure our residents are doing the same things they do in the Black Hills to reduce the risk of property damage,” Nickles said.

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