By Barrett Phillips
With fireworks banned in Rapid City and the Black Hills National Forest, thousands of people flock east to Rapid Valley to celebrate the Fourth of July.
In the past, grass fires have been started and ranchers property have been threatened. Rapid Valley ranchers have had to battle grass fires as large as 10 to 20 acres. "That's their livelihood; grass is what they raise their cows and feed on. It's like taking somebody who works for a company and burning out part of their business," Denny Gorton, Pennington County fire administrator, said.
Despite concerns, state law prohibits counties from banning the sale or use of fireworks on the Fourth.
Tuesday, Pennington County commissioners made a motion to request the South Dakota Legislature to give counties the right to ban the sale and use of fireworks based on the National Weather Services grasslands fire index.
"It would allow the counties to regulate in whatever manner they felt responsible and fair," Jay Alderman, chief deputy in the county states attorney's office, said. "They wouldn't be left with just prohibiting it or not prohibiting it. They could regulate such that they could still rely on the fire index."
If the state grants counties permission, they could start regulating as early as next year.