Caution Urged For Fireworks Season

Monday marks the start of fireworks sales outside of the city limits of Yankton.

With that, fire officials are urging the public to take precaution when it comes to fireworks usage.

Deputy Fire Chief Larry Nickles told the Press & Dakotan that a big part of this starts with knowing where you can and can’t use fireworks in the first place.

“Fireworks are not allowed within the city limits for storage or use,” he said. “That has been an ordinance for many years. Fireworks are allowed to be shot outside the city limits of Yankton or the city limits of any town in Yankton County unless otherwise specified.”

Yankton County has been in a drought throughout the year. Even with recent storms bringing some precipitation to the region, areas of moderate to severe drought remain across the county.

However, Nickles said that while fireworks always pose a fire risk in the open country, he’s not worried about the need for drastic measures at this time.

“Grass fires are always a concern for fireworks season,” he said. “Right now, we’re doing pretty good. Our fire category hasn’t really come up, but if we continue with the winds and the heat in the next week, I suspect we’re going to have a few fires. People need to take precautions.”

He said a county-enacted burn ban is probably not likely in the near future.

But Nickles added that, even if a burn ban were put in place in the coming weeks, fireworks use falls outside of the authority given to officials under a burn ban.

“By state law, we can’t stop the shooting of fireworks or the sale of fireworks during a drought or burn ban,” he said.

While many area residents will light their own purchased fireworks, many more will leave it to the professionals and congregate around Riverside Park for Yankton’s annual Fourth of July fireworks show.

Nickles said the Yankton Fire Department has a role to play in keeping this event safe as well.

“We watch the wind direction, obviously, and we work with the fireworks shooters to make sure everything goes the right direction,” he said. “They do a great job when they’re setting up keeping in touch with us.”

He said a truck will usually be on hand when the shows are shot off from the Nebraska side of the river, but issues there have been minimal.

“The worst that we’ve had in the last four or five years is the boxes they use to haul the fireworks in or the multi-shots will go off and catch fire,” he said. “We’ll go over and wet them down for them.”

The risk is mitigated further when fireworks are shot off from the upper deck of the Meridian Bridge, as is the plan this year.

Nickles said there are other safety tips to keep in mind this fireworks season, including:

• Have adult supervision while shooting fireworks.

• Eye protection is strongly recommended, and they are even sold at some fireworks shops and tents.

• Fireworks users outside the city limits should have permission from the landowner and are not allowed to shoot fireworks from a county road.

• Be aware of weather conditions and where fireworks will land.

“The Chinese lanterns can travel for miles,” Nickles said. “They are not outlawed in this state, but we do tell people to use caution when using them.”

• Fireworks may be shot off from June 27-July 10, the first Sunday after the Fourth of July.

Follow @RobNielsenPandD on Twitter.

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