Weather permitting: Dickinson fireworks show tentative
South Heart has canceled its public fireworks display because of dry conditions in the area.
The fireworks were scheduled for July 3, but concerns over the fire hazard in Stark County forced South Heart to pull the plug, said City Council Member Chuck Andrus. The city's family fun night is still set for that day despite the cancellation of fireworks.
"It's just a prudent idea with the situation as critical as it is that we would hate to have something happen that would be catastrophic, especially when it's so easily prevented," Andrus said.
Currently, Dickinson still plans to have its public fireworks display on the Fourth of July. Dickinson area emergency responders met Tuesday afternoon to discuss the danger of and response to fireworks over the holiday weekend.
Dickinson Fire Chief Bob Sivak said the Roughrider Commission, which is responsible for the city's display, will need to follow weather- and setup-related guidelines in order to launch. The city's fire code stipulates the fallout area from the fireworks needs a 70-foot radius for each inch of the shell's diameter, Sivak said. The site, located at the old rodeo grounds on State Avenue, will also need to be mowed, watered down and free of all combustible debris.
The fire department will have trucks and a crew on site, but the wind also needs to be less than 20 mph. If all of these conditions are not met, the city has the right to pull the event's permit, Sivak said. The fire department and emergency manager will discuss the conditions as late as the morning or afternoon of the Fourth before making a final decision.
"We have some things there through the adoption of the code that maybe others don't have, but that doesn't mean that that's a slam dunk," he said. "The weather conditions and whether all of our conditions to the environment are met still have to be in there. These guys are well-aware, especially this year, that we may call them next week and say, 'It's off.'"
The city of Medora banned private fireworks within city limits on the Fourth because of the dry conditions, said Carla Steffen, the city's auditor, in an email. The public display is still scheduled unless severe weather conditions exist.
Stark County is now in either an "extreme drought" or a "severe drought" depending on the area, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Gov. Doug Burgum proclaimed a statewide fire and drought emergency Monday evening. The declaration opens counties up to state resources, including the state's National Guard and Forest Service, in case any fires grow beyond local capabilities, said Bill Fahlsing, Stark County emergency manager.
Adam Jones from the National Weather Service said the area is only projected to receive about 0.1 inch of rain between Tuesday and the Fourth of July.
"What worries me is out in the country it is so dry. The pastures look like you sprayed them, that's how dry it looks," said County Commissioner Russ Hoff. "Come the Fourth or whatever around that date, even with the fines and everything, know there's going to be a few (fireworks) out there. It just happens that way."
Stark County and much of western North Dakota has implemented county burn bans. As a result, private fireworks are not allowed in the county. The use of fireworks is also banned from within city limits regardless of a burn ban. The use of fireworks under the ban is a Class B misdemeanor and punishable by up to 30 days in jail or a $1,500 fine.
"Dickinson PD is taking a zero tolerance approach at this point, as long as it's feasible, that is," said Dickinson Police Department Capt. Joe Cianni. "If we have any fireworks being ignited in the city that we can trace and actually observe, they will be cited on scene."
In the past, people have lit fireworks the week leading up to the holiday, something he has not seen many instances of this year. He hopes that means people are heeding the warnings.
Sivak also noted the danger sky lanterns pose when set free. They are always supposed to remain tethered down.
"You want to talk about the opportunity to fire-bomb the countryside, there they are," Sivak said. "Most people do not recognize those as a firework, and it is. It is a firework just as a bottle rocket, and people don't view them that way, and they need to. Those things can be extremely dangerous, and a citizen meaning no harm because they don't think it's a pyrotechnic-type firework is going to be putting those darn things in the air."
Emergency responders asked the public to call 911 to report a fire or any other emergency over the holiday. To report the use of fireworks call the police department's non-emergency line at 701-456-7759 or the Stark County Sheriff's Office's non-emergency line at 701-456-7610.