Conditions ripe for fires, rural fire chief saysRural Fire Chief Rick Woehl urged people Wednesday to pay attention to their actions after the Jamestown Rural Fire Department fought two fires Tuesday.
By: Kari Lucin, The Jamestown Sun
Rural Fire Chief Rick Woehl urged people Wednesday to pay attention to their actions after the Jamestown Rural Fire Department fought two fires Tuesday.
“Even driving a vehicle down a prairie trail where the grass is tall — you would normally think nothing of it, but in conditions like we have now, whether it be a four-wheeler or a pickup, even something as minor as driving off-road can touch off a fire,” Woehl said.
The fire danger index issued by the National Weather Service sat at “very high” Wednesday for Stutsman County and much of North Dakota, meaning fires “spread rapidly and show erratic behavior.”
That was certainly the case with the two Tuesday afternoon fires, which occurred within 15 minutes of each other — one vehicle fire and one grass fire.
Four units and eight firefighters were dispatched to the first fire at about 2:30 p.m. at exit 262 along Interstate 94 east of Jamestown, known as the Bloom exit.
“The driver of that vehicle (involved in the first call) said he threw a cigarette out the window, about a mile down the road, and he’s thinking that may have ended up in the back seat,” Woehl said, although the driver wasn’t certain.
According to Woehl, the man smelled smoke, pulled over and opened the door to remove the papers that were burning. The north wind gusted up and fanned the flames.
“He said it went up like gas,” Woehl recalled. “The minute the interior got air, it accelerated very fast.”
As a fifth unit was heading to the scene of the fire, 12 minutes later, another fire — this time a grass fire in a ditch along U.S. Highway 281 about two miles south of Jamestown — was called in by the Stutsman County Sheriff’s Office.
“Now what started that? It could have been a cigarette, a vehicle with faulty exhaust, we don’t know,” Woehl said. “It’s pretty hard to determine the cause of something where there’s a grass fire in the ditch.”
Stutsman County’s burning restrictions are still in place, and take effect any time the fire danger index is either “very high” or “extreme.”
To check the fire danger index, people can visit the Stutsman County website at www.co.stutsman.nd.us and click on the “Fire Danger Information” link on the bottom right.
“People don’t realize it’s that dry out there, but a guy really has to be conscious of all the flammable fuel that’s around right now, just waiting to go, for something silly to happen,” Woehl said.
Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be reached at 701-952-8453 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org