Weather Forecast


Three grass fires this week: 200 acres burn Friday

A lone firefighter uses a flapper to help contain a grass fire Friday at Pipestem Reservoir. Strong winds prevailed as the Jamestown Rural Fire Department fought the blaze in the remote area. John M. Steiner / The Sun

The Jamestown Rural Fire Department has extinguished three grass fires in the last four days, according to Fire Chief Rick Woehl.

He is afraid that count will go up.

“Everything is extremely dry,” he said. “Until green up, this is the hand we’re dealt.”

Thursday, approximately 120 acres burned southeast of Jamestown. A fire Tuesday near Highland Home Cemetery burned a small area before being extinguished by firefighters. And a fire that began at 4:19 p.m. Friday burned approximately 200 acres of land near the rifle range on the south side of Pipestem Dam.

There was no damage to structures or injuries with the fires.

Jerry Bergquist, Stutsman County emergency manager, noted the Jamestown Fire Department responded to a grass fire near the National Guard shop on Monday.

Woehl said Thursday’s fire occurred when the fire danger index was moderate. While the grass was dry enough to burn readily, the ground under it was wet and soft, making it difficult to move firefighting equipment around the scene.

Seven trucks and 22 firefighters responded to Friday’s fire, which was called in at 4:19 p.m. Wind and the muddy, soft ground alike hindered firefighters, and the scene wasn’t cleared until about 7:53 p.m.

“… it just made it tough to fight, the weather conditions with the wind,” said Brian Paulson, assistant chief with the JRFD.

Paulson said firefighters picked a point to make a stand against the fire and cut it off.

Its cause remains under investigation at this time.

Bergquist said two of the first three fires recorded in Stutsman County in the past week occurred when the fire danger index was in the moderate category.

“The National Weather Service started issuing the fire danger index on April 4,” he said. “It’s bounced around between moderate and high.”

The fire danger index forecasts the potential for fire and its ability to spread in a rural area and utilizes temperature, relative humidity and wind speed. Woehl said the recent fires indicate grass fires are possible even when the fire danger index is below the high categories.

“Everybody needs to be real cautious even if the fire danger index is moderate,” he said. “It takes little or nothing to get things going.”

Bergquist said it is too soon to consider a burn ban for the county. Burn bans are based on the recommendations of the county’s rural fire chiefs and are issued by the Stutsman County Commission.

“It’s a little early to think about yet,” Woehl said. “But if we don’t get some moisture soon it’s something we’ll likely have to consider.”

Morton, Dunn, Mountrail, McLean and Williams counties in western North Dakota have all issued burn bans. 

Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at 701-952-8452 or by email at