High fire danger continues in Stutsman County
The high fire danger is likely to continue for the foreseeable future with some tips on how to make property safer from grass fires.
Dry weather forecasts have prompted emergency officials in Stutsman County to anticipate an extended period of dangerous fire conditions, according to Jerry Bergquist, Stutsman County emergency manager and 911 coordinator.
"It looks like the long haul on the fire danger thing," he said. "There is nothing in the forecast that even looks like moisture."
A news release issued Wednesday by Bergquist anticipated that the fire dangers would remain high for several days.
The U.S. Drought Monitor has most of Stutsman County classified as being in a severe drought with the 30-day drought outlook showing that drought persisting. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasts above-normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation for North Dakota through August.
The Stutsman County open burning ordinance prohibits open fires when the National Weather Service has issued a red flag warning or the fire danger rating is very high or extreme, Bergquist said. Violation of the ordinance is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by 30 days in jail and a $1,500 fine. The ordinance is in effect for all of Stutsman County with the exception of the city of Jamestown.
The ordinance prohibits all open fires including things such as burn barrels or campfires associated with outdoor activity.
"There were red flag warnings Sunday and Monday (March 28, 29)," he said. "There was also a very high fire rating on Monday."
The National Weather Service also issued a red flag warning for Thursday.
Bergquist said four fires were reported during the warnings, although it didn't appear any were from violations of the burn ban ordinance.
"Some of these fires started days earlier and people thought they were out," he said. "They were rekindled by the wind."
Brian Paulson, chief of Jamestown Rural Fire Department, said people should be careful with fires even if conditions are below the very high fire danger.
"If you have something like a burn barrel, even if the fire there was two weeks ago, get water on it," he said. "Make sure it is completely out and cold so it doesn't rekindle."
Paulson also recommended people clear brush and any other materials around their buildings.
"You want to build up about a 100-foot defensive perimeter around any structures," he said, referring to removing any piles of firewood or other flammable materials near buildings. "Keep the grass mowed short to slow any fire."
People mowing lawns or working outdoors should keep water or fire extinguishers handy to put out any fire that might start with a single spark from an exhaust system or a blade striking a rock, Paulson said.
On the farm, farmers with large portable tanks, such as water tanks used with farm chemicals, should keep them filled with water to fight any possible fires they encounter.
"The only way to stop larger fires would be to plow firebreaks," Paulson said. "We would rely on farmers who have the equipment to do that."
Fire danger ratings are listed at the top of Stutsman County's website at www.co.stutsman.nd.us. Information from the National Weather Service on forecasts and warnings related to fire danger is available at www.forecast.weather.gov.