The forecast says the Yankton area could be getting some rain the next couple days, perhaps up to an inch. And it will be more than welcome.
However, don’t let that fool you.
That message was emphasized by Yankton County Emergency Management Director Paul Scherschligt Monday night when he addressed the County Commission about putting a temporary burn ban in place through early next month.
The commissioners agreed, unanimously approving a ban that is scheduled to sunset on May 4. It could be extended at that point if the dry conditions in the county don’t improve.
And it will actually take more than a little rain for that to happen.
As Scherschligt noted, while the projected rain will help, the south wind will dry things out fast, and we might find ourselves right back in the same tinderbox conditions quite quickly.
Burn bans are tricky matters, as the commissioners mentioned. A number of rural residents prefer to burn their own garbage, and a ban on burning can cause that debris to build up fast and tempt some people to burn their trash anyway.
Sometimes, landowners will believe a burn ban — whether it’s a daily ban or a longer-lasting order — may be lifted if they see smoke billowing from other fields in nearby counties. Fire officials have pointed out more than once that local laws must be adhered to, no matter what landowners are seeing elsewhere.
Yankton County has implemented a rather practical approach to burn bans. It has an ordinance in place that allows it to ban fires on a day-by-day basis without going through the County Commission to enact it. This has come in handy so far this spring with the warm, dry conditions and the gusty winds.
That’s also what makes the month-long ban an extraordinary measure. County fire chiefs are seeking the ban to lessen the dangers posed by what are expected to be largely dry conditions, which figure to persist as we head into plantings season.
During Monday’s meeting, Commissioner Don Kettering questioned the penalties for violating the ban. While there is penalty for any violation, he wonders if the law is being enforced. If there are numerous violations in the weeks to come, enforcement needs to be applied; otherwise, the ban does little good.
These are dry times, and unless steady rain can change matters dramatically, limitations on open burning may become a fact of our lives for some time to come.