Gov. Daugaard issues an emergency fire declaration for 13 counties

Farm Forum

Gov. Dennis Daugaard issued an emergency fire declaration on July 13 for 13 counties in central and western South Dakota – including Stanley and Hughes – that have been hit by drought conditions.

The other counties included are Butte, Custer, Fall River, Haakon, Harding, Jackson, Jones, Lawrence, Meade, Pennington and Perkins.

The emergency declaration allows state government services to be used if needed to fight fires and otherwise respond to conditions, with nearly all the costs being picked up by the state.

The state drought task force Daugaard activated on July 13 recommended he issue the declaration, which became effective July 15.

“Widespread drought, low humidity and high temperatures have led to a serious fire hazard in those 13 counties,” Daugaard said in a news release. “Persistent prairie fires could diminish the feed and water supplies needed for livestock, or create hardships for individuals, businesses and governments by destroying public, private and agricultural property.”

One main thing the declaration will do is authorizing a single engine air tanker(SEAT) plane to be stationed in Pierre and be managed by the state Department of Agriculture’s Division of Wildland Fire.

The plane will respond as needed to fires in the declared counties.

If the plane used, the state would cover 90 percent of the cost while the counties would pay the other 10 percent.

The small tanker plane also will be available to use on prairie fires affecting federal and tribal lands through existing agreements.

“Sixty percent of the land in our state is abnormally dry and counties primarilywest of the river are experiencing moderate to extreme drought,” Daugaard said. “By declaring an emergency the state will be prepared to assist counties when and if fires break out.”

The Black Hills Forest Fire Protection District is not included in the declaration that will last no longer than Dec. 31.

Gov. Daugaard said the declaration allows state government services to be used as necessary to help the counties that are part of the declaration. The declaration was recommended by the state Drought Task Force which was activated by the Governor last week.