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Local fire expert warns against Mount Rushmore fireworks because of drought and surrounding forest

Mount Rushmore fireworks
Mount Rushmore fireworks(KOTA)
Published: Jun. 26, 2020 at 8:37 PM CDT
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The 2020 Mount Rushmore fireworks are set to take place July 3. Because of the moderate drought in the Black Hills, a local fire expert opposes the display.

"There should never be fireworks, in my opinion, over flammable material, especially a ponderosa pine forest in the Black Hills of South Dakota when there is a drought going on," said Bill Gabbert, the managing editor for

.

Though the Monument is all rock, the area surrounding the faces is covered in ponderosa pines. Gabbert said from 2000 to 2001, 17 fires can be traced to Mount Rushmore's fireworks, including one more than a quarter mile from the launch site.

To prepare for this year's show, an

was commissioned by the state.

"The final opinion from that Environmental Analysis was that there would not be significant harm done by the fireworks," said Gabbert.

Governor Kristi Noem said the State, the National Parks Service, and the Department of Interior have been working for a year and a half to prepare the area and make the correct decisions.

"They've been back burning and doing controlled burns for the last year to make sure that they're controlling the amount of risk that could be potentially in place for having any kind of fire," said Noem. "And that day, looking at weather conditions and the facts on the ground, the decision will be made."

But wild fires are not the only worry. There's a chemical concern as well.

"The USGS found, after a study in the fireworks area, they found a poisonous chemical that causes birth defects, called Perchlorate," said Gabbert. "And the concentrations that they found in the water within the Mount Rushmore National Memorial were 270 times higher than that found outside the fireworks area."

Gabbert said Perchlorate is generated from explosions. He said the EPA was considering setting a limit on acceptable levels of Perchlorate in water.

"But, they announced just a few days ago that they would not regulate Perchlorate at all," said Gabbert.

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