The whole state of North Dakota under statewide burn ban

As Cavalier County gets ready for spring, the burn ban for the entire state has been extended under executive order of Governor Jack Dalrymple. Area residents please take note of this and act accordingly. 

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Posted on 4/18/15

By Melissa Anderson

Over the past week rural firefighters in Cavalier County have been pulled from their homes and spring preparations as fires have been started and subsequently been blown out of control by the infamous North Dakota winds.

Dalrymple’s original executive order was in effect until April 15, but it was extended as a statewide fire emergency until April 30. The governor can extend the statewide fire emergency beyond April 30 if necessary.

In his executive order, Dalrymple issued a burn ban for areas in the North Dakota Fire Danger Rating designated as “High,” “Very High,” or “Extreme,” and/or when a Red Flag Warning has been issued for an area. Burning will be allowed in designated areas with a “Low” or “Moderate” Fire Danger Rating if approved by the local fire response authority that has jurisdiction over the area.

Cavalier County has a Fire Danger Rating of “High” with no wind. With the burn ban in place no fire permits are being issued by the fire departments.

Dalrymple has also activated the North Dakota State Emergency Operations Plan to make state assistance available to local and tribal officials in the event of a fire emergency. In addition, the governor has authorized the Adjutant General to activate and make available North Dakota National Guard resources in support of local and tribal governments.

“This executive order is an important step in our ongoing work to protect against the threat of fire outbreaks in many areas of the state,” Dalrymple said.

“Our state agencies have been directed to be at the ready should local and tribal officials need assistance in protecting life or property.”

Dalrymple’s executive order was issued in response to extremely dry conditions, burn ban and fire restrictions declared throughout the state, Fire Weather Watches and Red Flag Warnings issued by the National Weather Service (NWS), unseasonably warm temperatures, low humidity and high winds. The NWS has documented below average precipitation across the state, leaving many natural fuels, such as tall grasses, very dry and susceptible to fire outbreak.

Cavalier County Emergency Management states that the first offense of a burn ban is a Class B misdemeanor with punishment being up to 30 days in jail and a $1,500 fine.

“This is a life and safety issue, do not burn,” Karen Kempert, the coordinator for Cavalier County Emergency Management, stated.

Burn bans include the throwing of cigarette butts outside, burning garbage, burning ditches, and no agricultural burning.

“Don’t even burn your garbage in a burn barrel cause the embers could be lifted and carried away and cause a wildfire,” Kempert stated.

Kempert explained that the reason the burn ban is so important to be aware of and to not start any fires is because of the current conditions of the North Dakota landscape. The combination of the wind, the dry grass and other fuel sources that are out there, the lack of moisture in the air and ground are creating fires that are not normally fought by the North Dakota firefighters in the area.

“These are the types of fires that take firefighters lives,” Kempert stated.

“I wouldn’t even burn in a 10 mile an hour wind when the fire service is saying that fire conditions are dangerous.”

These conditions create fires that are not easily contained and take property that is in their path.

Such was the case on the night of April 14 when the Rural Volunteer Fire Departments of Nekoma and Munich were called out to combat a blaze.

Munich fire chief, Bruce Wirth, stated that a recent fire that began in the early evening of April 14 had the full volunteer forces of the Munich and Nekoma fire departments combatting the out of control fire until nearly 3 a.m.

The fire destroyed 8,000 acres or more of CRP land and destroyed one unoccupied farmstead. At one point during the battle with the blaze two occupied farmyards were in danger of being consumed but, the fire departments were able to back burn from the properties, keeping them safe from the fire storm.

“Eight hours of fighting fires- that shouldn’t have happened,” Wirth stated.

“The flames were 20 feet high, and it was out of control jumping from slough to slough,” Wirth continued.

The muddy conditions in the worked fields impeded the firefighters and caused vehicles to become stuck.

“If we hadn’t gotten it contained when we did, it would have gone for miles and miles,” Wirth said.

The Brocket Fire Department has also been combatting wildfires as four fires were reported and fought to be contained over a period of four days.

“No burning till we get some moisture. It can get away from you real easy,” Wirth stated.

While the burn ban is in place, there is no burning allowed in any condition high or above and during moderate and low. Those wishing to conduct a burn should contact the Fire Chief in the jurisdiction to notify them of where the burn will take place.

In the meantime, be responsible, and thank a volunteer rural firefighter.

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