Fire danger ratings cause concern over July 4th holiday

By Cathy Nelson

HOT SPRINGS – The Fall River burn ban ordinance will be held under scrutiny by the Fall River County Commission at the request of the county’s Emergency Manager Frank Maynard. His request comes as a result of the many phone calls he received on July 3 and 4 with people asking questions and voicing complaints about the different fire danger index notices posted on three weather services’ web sites.

“We need to go back and take look at our burn ban ordinance,” Maynard told the commissioners. “We need to establish which weather service we are going to utilize.”

He further explained that on the weekend of July 4, the three weather services published three different fire danger ratings, ranging from moderate to very high. “This caused considerable confusion for the public regarding whether fireworks would be allowed,” he said. “There are three different web sites utilized to determine the fire danger.” He added that none have been specified as the one to follow in Fall River County.

According to state law, any county, may by resolution, regulate or prohibit the use of fireworks outside the boundaries of any municipality in those areas where the fire danger, as determined by the use of the South Dakota fire danger index published by the National Weather Service, has reached the extreme category in that county during the period from June 20 to July 2 and December 28 to January 2. During any such period, the county’s action is suspended if the grassland fire danger index falls below the very high category and again becomes effective if the grassland fire danger index reaches the extreme category.

The commissioners voiced concern about using the National Weather Service fire danger index because the fire danger can vary from county to county. They will discuss Fall River fire bans at their next meeting, July 21.

Maynard said, that to his knowledge, none of the fires over the July 4 holiday were caused by fireworks. He also said that the fire potential for southwestern South Dakota is high for July.

Moving on to the subject of road signs, GIS Supervisor Stacey Martin presented information on the regulation for the placement of novelty road signs. She said that novelty signs can cause confusion, and that confusion may lead to a loss of life and property. The commissioners will discuss and vote on an ordinance regulating the use of novelty road signs at their next meeting, July 21.

On another topic, Highway Superintendent Randy Seiler announced that the railroad will be working on the Oral Road railroad crossing starting on July 26. This could cause the crossing to be shut down for two days, he said. There was also continuing discussion on how to improve Sheps Canyon Road. Seiler talked to Game Fish and Parks about helping with the cost, however GFP responded saying there was no money in this year’s budget, but they would find money next year. There is an agreement with GFP to add mag water to the road every year for the next five years. Seiler also said there is a new resort that will be built in the Angostura area that will not be on GFP’s land. The resort will use Shep’s Canyon Road. Seiler said that with the way the county is growing, “we need planning and zoning.”

During public comment it was brought up that 36 ballots in the last election had to be destroyed because one of the poll workers used the wrong stamp. The speaker said that the poll worker should resign.

Commissioner Joe Falkenburg talked about the Bureau of Land Management’s purchase of 35,000 acres in Wyoming without notification. “They didn’t notify the county commissioners, they didn’t notify the governor, they didn’t notify anyone,” he said. “It’s wrong.”

In other business, the commissioners approved the following items:

• The PILT monies hearing for the 2023 distribution will be held at the next commission meeting on July 21 at 9:30 a.m.

• Hire approval for Amy Leal in the Extension office for $14 an hour

• Hire approval for Jon Lovett to assist with road sign replacement for $14.05 an hour

• Pay raise for Paula Heimgartner, dispatcher, from $16.50 to $17.50 an hour

• Plats for Andersen Engineers

Fall River County Herald Star

EDGEMONT OFFICE: 410 2nd Avenue   Edgemont, SD 57735-0660 | 605.662.7201
HOT SPRINGS OFFICE: 334 S. Chicago St.  Hot Springs, SD 57747 | 605.745.3930
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