Local officials are warning Lake County residents to take extra precautions in preventing fires this fall because current conditions are favorable for the quick and easy spread of any uncontrolled flames. Don Thomson, Lake County emergency management director, sent out an e-mail that cautioned residents about dry conditions and making an extra effort to prevent wildfires.
"As we enter into the fall season, grasslands, crop fields and pastures will begin to dry up more than they have already," Thomson said. "With the common winds that we have and the dry air, fires can start easily and spread quickly."
Showers and thunderstorms are predicted for the local area from Thursday night until Saturday. However, climate experts with the U.S. Drought Monitor, which is based in Nebraska, continue to categorize southeastern South Dakota as abnormally dry.
Researchers with the U.S. Agriculture Department have also ranked the state's soil moisture condition as 20 percent very short and 43 percent short. Only 1 percent of South Dakota's soil moisture was classified as surplus.
With the start of the harvest season, farmers should make every effort to maintain their field equipment so their machinery does not start fires.
Madison Fire Chief Randy Minnaert has advised harvest crews to make cleaning their combines and grain trucks a daily ritual to prevent machinery fires. Those precautions should prevent damage (and monetary losses) to equipment and fields.
Area farmers should also keep portable fire extinguishers on hand in case a fire breaks out in the field. Drivers should use caution when they go off-road in trucks and all-terrain vehicles because exhaust systems can grow hot enough to ignite grass fires.
Motorists should not throw any cigarette butts from their vehicles.
Residents should only use burn pits when the winds are calm and the pits are located far enough away from any buildings. Persons should completely extinguish any camp fires, and they should not leave any fires unattended.
County officials could enact a burn ban depending on how conditions evolve this fall.