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Connecting Agriculture: Celebrating Wildfire Awareness Month


For Immediate Release: May 10, 2017
Media Contact: Jody Heemstra, 605.773.4073

(***EDITOR’S NOTE: Download an AUDIO version of this column here. Download a PHOTO of Sec. Jaspers here.***)


Connecting Agriculture: Celebrating Wildfire Awareness Month
By Mike Jaspers, South Dakota Secretary of Agriculture


I spent some time this past weekend at the parts store picking up a new battery for my lawnmower. While there, I ran into some of my neighbors—a sure sign that spring is here and summer is close behind. As summer comes many of us will be spending more time outdoors, mowing the lawn, grilling, traveling and camping. Many of these outdoor activities come with increased fire danger. Therefore, it's fitting that, as we kick off the warm season in South Dakota, we also observe May as Wildfire Awareness Month.


The goal of Wildfire Awareness Month is to raise awareness of the dangers of wildfires and how people can protect themselves and their communities from these fires. The 2017 theme, ‘Do Your Part Before Wildfires Start,’ encourages homeowners to take steps to reduce the possible impacts of a wildland fire.


As we are out and about in the nice weather, there are a variety of things we can do to help guard our homes, buildings and trees from a wildfire:
• Clean out gutters, roofs and other areas where debris has settled
• Avoid burning on windy days and never leave a burn pile unattended
• Maintain equipment to reduce sparks and check that trailer chains do not drag
• Create an evacuation plan and practice the route with family members
• Practice campfire safety by ensuring your fire is completely extinguished before leaving the campsite
• Keep the space around your home clear of dense vegetation
• Take action in your community by organizing a wildfire preparedness event

Events and activities will take place across the state during May to mark Wildfire Awareness Month, including open houses at area fire departments and a visit to Mt. Rushmore by Smokey Bear. Additionally, the South Dakota Department of Agriculture’s Wildland Fire Division, along with several partners, will be working with landowners to remove unsafe trees from their property through their ‘Junk the Junipers’ project.


To learn more about Wildland Fire Awareness Month, the ‘Junk the Junipers’ project and to see a schedule of planned events, go to: www.sdwildfireawareness.com.


As you enjoy outdoor activities this month, I hope you can take part in some of the Wildfire Awareness Month activities and will take some time to make sure your home and family are ‘firewise.’ As Smokey Bear says, ‘Only you can prevent wildfires.’