KOTA Territory firefighters on patrol as hunters take to fields - KOTA Territory News

KOTA Territory firefighters on patrol as hunters take to fields

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Saturday marked the beginning of the antelope hunting season in South Dakota, and with the increased traffic in rural areas comes increased worry about wildfires.
 
While KOTA Territory fire agencies are taking more precautions, wildlife managers say there isn't really any cause for concern.

Flecks and blobs of orange dotted fields in the northwestern part of the state on opening day.
 
"That's why we're out here today," said Dustin Tenold, assistant chief with the Sorum Reva Fire Department in Harding County.
 
Tenold and a few other firefighters were on severity patrol duty for the kick off of antelope season.
 
"Just be available for anything that comes along, react fast, and be available immediately," he said of the team's duties.
 
The worry is more hunting traffic.
 
"Most hunters are very considerate and make sure that there's no problems," he said, "but just parking a vehicle along the highway can, in weather like this and conditions like these, can cause a major wildfire."
 
So the severity patrol was out checking in on campsites and pretty much anywhere else that could be a problem area.
 
"If something does get started,"Tenold said, "then we've got a crew available to go immediately."
 
But both he and Brian Meiers with the Game, Fish and Parks Department say that even though fire danger is extreme this year, the danger posed by hunters is diminished.
 
"In western Harding County," said Meiers, "I believe there's 150 single tags, and then eastern Harding County, where we're at right now [in Reva], about 200 single tags."
 
That's way lower than just a few years ago, when tags reached into the thousands.
 
"It is nice having lower numbers of licenses because there's lower numbers of vehicles and that drives down fire danger," Meiers said.
 
But not down far enough to eliminate the need for a fire crew on standby.
 
"In conditions like these," said Tenold, "it just takes once"

Because of the low herd numbers and low license numbers, this year's tags are only available to South Dakota resident hunters.

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