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Jamestown Rural Fire seeing record number of calls

Hot, dry weather this year has increased the number of grass fires in the region.

grass fire
This grass fire in a street ditch in Jamestown was likely caused by smoking materials thrown from a car igniting dry grass, according to the Jamestown Fire Department. The Jamestown Fire Department and Jamestown Rural Fire Department are urging caution to avoid grass fires in the area. Kathy Steiner / The Sun
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As of 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, the Jamestown Rural Fire Department had responded to 99 calls so far in 2021, according to Brian Paulson, chief of the department.

"I don't think we win anything if we break 100," he said with a chuckle. "Maybe we'll just spray down whoever sets the 100th fire of the year."

The 2021 pace for rural fires far outpaces any recent year with just 55 fire calls in 2020, 54 in 2019 and 35 in 2018.

The number of calls was boosted by two on Tuesday with the department responding to a hayfield fire, started by farm equipment in the field, at about 2:30 p.m. The fire burned about 2 acres and 19 firefighters were on the scene for about one hour.

Later that afternoon, firefighters responded to another fire near Spiritwood.

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"Somebody dumped tires and trash at an abandoned farmstead, lighted it on fire and left," Paulson said.

Firefighters did get a bit of a break about a week ago with some rains moving through the region and lowering the danger of grass fires.

"It is getting there," Paulson said, referring to the dry conditions and high grass fire danger returning to the area. "Looks like hot dry weather at the end of this week and into next which will bring on more fires."

The National Weather Service is forecasting temperatures at or above 90 degrees starting Saturday and running through at least the early part of next week. As of Wednesday, July 14, the fire danger index for Stutsman County was listed as moderate. Open fires are prohibited in Stutsman County when the fire danger index is very high, extreme or the National Weather Service has issued a red flag warning.

The Jamestown Fire Department has responded to two fires along city streets in the last week, according to Sheldon Mohr, training officer for the department.

On July 13, firefighters responded to a fire caused by a down power line.

On July 11, firefighters responded to a grass fire in the ditch along 3rd Street Southeast.

"That was likely caused by someone throwing smoking materials from a car," Mohr said. "It hit the dry grass along the street and started on fire."

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No damage was reported at either fire.

"We shouldn't have to caution people not to throw their smoking material out of cars but ... be careful, it is dry out there," Mohr said.

Paulson is advising farmers, and anyone spending time outdoors, to carry a fire extinguisher along with them.

"That will at least slow it down until we can get there," he said.

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