YANKTON, S.D. (KELO) — Even with the wet and long winter we’ve all endured this year, it doesn’t mean the chances for wildfires are low now that the snow is melting and the ground is drying up. A red flag warning was even in effect for portions of southeastern KELOLAND yesterday.

The Yankton Fire Department is ready to go with their brush truck when the call for a wildfire comes in. Deputy fire chief Larry Nickles says the red flag warning over the weekend snuck up on them. 

“High winds, low humidity, good temperatures is kind of what dictates a red flag. Today (Sunday), we’re nice and cool. We’re in moderate fire category and we’d like to see it stay that way this week, but I don’t think that’s going to happen,” Nickles said. 

The drought conditions the past couple years have not helped the situation this year – even with all the snow we got.

“The moisture is helping, it’s just that we’ve got so much dead stuff because we were in a burn ban last fall that didn’t get burned off that people like to burn, and now they’re chomping at the bit to get rid of that stuff, especially CRP fields, and we’ve got a small window for that,” Nickles said. 

And with the fluctuating weather, deciding weather or not to have a burn ban is on a day-by-day basis.  

“Once it reaches very high up to red flag, there’s absolutely no burning. Not a campfire, no garbage or anything like that. And that is a daily type deal. Now we can change that. When all the fire chiefs in the county get together, they go to our emergency manager. He goes to the county commission and we can put on a permanent indefinite burn ban. We’re hoping that that doesn’t happen this year, but it’s very likely it’s going to,” Nickles said. 

Even if there is not a burn ban you should still take the extra precautions to make sure a wildfire does not spread if you are out burning anything.

“Look ahead at the weather. See when the wind’s going to come up, if any, that day or even the next day, because we get a lot of rekindles from tree piles and stuff like that. Make sure the area around your burn, if you’re doing a sizable one, is tilled. Make sure your wind direction. If you’ve got water extinguishers available, that’s always helpful. Or a weed sprayer on a four-wheeler or in the back of your pickup is a big help to you,” Nickles said.

You can see updates about burning in Yankton County through the fire department’s Facebook Page and website.