Fire risk ‘very high’ today: Gusts of 60 mph expected today amid dry conditionsGiven the dry conditions and predicted wind gusts of 60 mph, the fire danger index is set at “very high” today and people should not be burning anything.
By: Kari Lucin, The Jamestown Sun
Given the dry conditions and predicted wind gusts of 60 mph, the fire danger index is set at “very high” today and people should not be burning anything.
“They should not start fires,” said Harlyn Wetzel, a meteorologist in the Bismarck office of the National Weather Service, which sets the fire danger index.
Whenever the index reaches very high or extreme levels, the county’s burn restrictions kick in, making setting fires a class B misdemeanor punishable with a $1,000 fine and 30 days in jail.
From Oct. 1-16, the index reached very high only twice, once on Oct. 2 and once on Oct. 12, and it never reached extreme.
During its Tuesday meeting, the Stutsman County Commission discussed a recent uptick in fires in Stutsman County, including three that occurred on Monday.
“You can’t imagine anybody tomorrow and the following day, when the winds are forecast at 60 miles an hour … that would be stupid enough to light a match, do you?” said Commissioner Mark Klose, echoing the concerns of other county officials.
Just because people can burn when the fire danger index is high does not mean that they necessarily should. Wind can kick up during the day and conditions can change.
“That common sense factor is just a little on the thin side,” said Jerry Bergquist, emergency manager for Stutsman County, during the commission meeting. Later, he added “People can’t let down their guard. They have to be smart when it comes to burning.”
From Oct. 9-15, the Stutsman County Communications Center dispatched fire departments to 13 fires.
Five of those fires were actually controlled burns, but the fire departments hadn’t been made aware of them in advance, so they were sent out anyway.
Of the eight remaining fires, the Jamestown Rural Fire Department fought six of them. The Kensal Fire Department fought one and the Kensal and Pingree fire departments fought another together.
When the fire danger index is lower and it’s appropriate to burn, residents are still supposed to call Stutsman County’s dispatch center at 252-1000 so that emergency personnel aren’t sent to a fire that’s under control.
“It will greatly minimize the number of times we send the fire departments out unnecessarily. These are all volunteers, you know,” Bergquist said.
To check the fire danger index, visit the Stutsman County website at www.co.stutsman.nd.us and click on “Fire Danger Information” on the lower right side of the page, or call the dispatch center.
There will be a chance of scattered precipitation in the next few days, but it will likely not amount to more than one-tenth of an inch, Wetzel said.
After Thursday, Wetzel said conditions would likely improve, but until there is significant precipitation or a snow cover, people should be cautious about burning.
Wetzel said the wind will reach 40 mph today, with gusts of up to 60 mph.
“Hang onto your hats tomorrow,” he said. “Put rocks in your pockets.”
In other news Tuesday, the commission:
* accepted the resignation of Jeff Mitchell as an officer of the Stutsman County Water Resource Board. The Water Resource Board earlier had found Mitchell had created an illegal drain.
* approved a contract agreement for a training program for the Law Enforcement Center staff, at the cost of a one-time $2,500 implementation fee and $3,600 for a two-year contract. The jail study performed by a consultant earlier this year recommended such a training program.
* agreed to pay Braun Intertec $11,469 for soil borings along Stutsman County Highway 62, also known as Old 10. The borings will help determine the extent and type of repairs the road will require.
* approved a contract with E-Dispatches, which will provide a second way for emergency services personnel to be paged, through cellphones rather than pagers. Recently, fewer people have been receiving their pages due to technical changes in narrow-band radio. The initial $558 cost and the $368 monthly bill will be paid for through 911 funds, Bergquist said.
* accepted $23,500 in grants for training exercises and planning for emergency management.
* learned that the Federal Emergency Management Agency had given Stutsman County an honorable mention in an awards category for outstanding youth preparedness, for its teen certification program.
Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be
reached at 701-952-8453
or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org