USA — Every Fourth of July fireworks display in Rapid City for the past 15years has been illegal – including backyard pyrotechnics – but a glitch in statelaw, undiscovered until now, could be fixed by next summer.
“It’s kind of embarrassing,” state AgricultureSecretary Larry Gabriel said Thursday.
Gabriel raised the issue at a hearing in Pierre before the Senate Agricultureand Natural Resources Committee.
Gabriel was testifying about an unrelated bill to change the boundaries of theBlack Hills Fire Protection District.
Sen. Jim Lintz, R-Hermosa, introduced the measure at the request of constituents,mostly ranchers, with land on the east side of S.D. Highway 79, south of RapidCity.
Lintz said constituents wanted their grasslands removed from the fire protectiondistrict, where burning permits are needed for any open fires. In hot, dryweather it’s hard to get a permit, Lintz said. “It doesn’t make sense tohave those criteria on prairie ground,” he told the committee.
Under Lintz’s bill, the new boundary of the Black Hills Fire Protection District- from Rapid City to the Cheyenne River – would be Highway 79 instead of theChicago and Northwestern Railroad tracks.
The tracks run roughly parallel to the highway to the east, so moving theboundary to the west would take a long swath of grasslands out of the district.
Gabriel opposes that because of the danger of a grass fire spreading to timber.”The people who work in fire suppression are very concerned about fireworks,”he told the committee.
But Gabriel added that if the Legislature were going to change the lawestablishing the Black Hills Fire Protection District, would they please add acorrection to the current law.
Incorporated towns and cities, like Rapid City, are supposed to be exempt fromthe fire-district rules, but the 1992 law exempts only “third classmunicipalities” – or very small towns.
Technically, first- and second-class municipalities are not exempt from thefire-district rules, including the fireworks ban.
“That was never the intention of the Legislature,” Gabriel said.”It was just something that happened.”
He offered an amendment to fix the problem.
Gabriel also suggested a way to allay his concern about moving the fire-districtboundary closer to the Black Hills. He said there could be a buffer zone – say300 yards – that would be outside the district but where setting off fireworkswould be prohibited.
Lintz also offered an amendment to his original bill. SB79 would also change thefire-protection boundary between Rapid City and Whitewood, moving it from therailroad tracks to Interstate 90. That would have put a fireworks retailer inBlack Hawk out of business. Lintz’s amendment would grandfather that business.
With amendments to mull, a law to fix and Rapid City’s Fourth of July to save,the committee postponed action on the bill until its regular meeting Tuesday.