GOOD: Volunteerism is something every community should relish, embrace and nourish. That special spirit was on display on Thursday in Rapid City when more than 900 volunteers worked on 79 projects as part of the United Way’s annual Day of Giving. The volunteers, through the generosity of their employers in many cases, picked up trash, did weeding, painting, weatherizing and a host of other tasks for the less fortunate and elderly in our community. According to Jamie Toennies, executive director of the United Way of the Black Hills, the volunteers' efforts had an economic impact of at least $80,000. Future Day of Caring events will be held on Sept. 14 in Sturgis, Sept. 21 in Spearfish and Sept. 26 in Custer — all great opportunities for businesses and individuals to give back to their communities.
BAD: While the streets of Rapid City are apparently getting safer, there’s still plenty to look out for while driving here. According to the police department, traffic accidents declined 6 percent in 2016, but DUI arrests were up 7 percent and alcohol- and drug-related crashes jumped 9 percent. Other top causes were failure to yield, following too closely, distracted driving, disregarding a traffic signal and overdriving conditions. Overall, the city had 1,435 significant crashes compared to 1,525 in 2015. While around 1,500 accidents sounds like a lot, it’s surprising there’s not more considering how many drivers run red lights, speed or can hardly take their eyes off their smartphones while operating a multi-ton vehicle. Driving is considered the single most dangerous thing that most of us do every day. It’s too bad more people don’t understand that safety should be a top priority as mistakes while driving can kill, maim and destroy lives as anyone who has lost a loved one in an accident already knows.
UGLY: As of Sunday, there were 67 active large wildfires being fought in five western states, including Montana that has spent $50 million on fire suppression since early July. Fortunately, the Black Hills has been spared any of the massive forest fires that are now blazing in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana. But, nonetheless, on Labor Day weekend, we got a long look as smoke from Montana’s fires filled our skies with an unhealthy haze. It is important, however, to realize that western South Dakota residents are not out of the woods yet this fire season. It remains tinder dry in the area and the forecast calls for temperatures in the 90s and 80s for most of the week. Before we count our blessings during this hot fire season, let’s remember it only takes one spark to start a forest fire.