Hunters asked to guard against grass fires

Posted October 18, 2011 at 4:16 pm

Much of South Dakota is extremely dry, and that has created the potential for wildfires this fall.

The Game, Fish and Parks Department is asking for diligence on the part of hunters going into fields this autumn to assist not only in the prevention of fires, but also in detecting fires.

“Rains have brought us some very good cover with tall, lush vegetation,” said Emmett Keyser, assistant director of the GFP Wildlife Division. “This dense cover is wonderful for wildlife and will make for some great hunting opportunities. However, as grass and other woody plants freeze and dry, they will become more combustible.”

Keyser noted that very few fires over the past decade have been attributed to hunting activity.

“Hunters are among the best fire-prevention tools,” he said. “Through their precautions, thoughtful actions and diligence in keeping a watch on the horizon, we have those extra eyes in the field that are so valuable in preventing wildfires.”

Keyser said hunters can be an active part of fire prevention by adding the following preparations to their hunting plans:

• Carry a cell phone with a list of emergency contact numbers, and keep track of where good cell coverage access is available.

• Stay in close contact with private landowners to know what concerns and restrictions are in place when hunting their land.

• Park vehicles in designated parking areas and away from tall vegetation.

• Ensure that catalytic converters and mufflers are in good repair.

• Walk into hunting areas and walk out, including retrieval of game whenever possible.

• Restrict driving to established roads and trails.

• Camp only in designated camping areas and restrict the use of campfires.

• Include extra water, a bucket, a shovel, and other fire fighting equipment.

• Hunt in the early morning when high humidity make fires less likely.

• Restrict smoking to vehicles, and extinguish cigarettes in the vehicle’s ashtray.

“The key to fire safety is awareness,” Keyser said. “Hunters just need to use common sense and be aware of the potential for wildfires no matter what the conditions are. A responsible citizen’s actions can make a huge difference in protecting both property and wildlife resources.”