UPDATE: Fire near Grassy Butte engulfs over 3,500 acres

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GRASSY BUTTE, ND - UPDATE 7/11 12:45 P.M.: More federal firefighters have arrived on scene of a large wildfire in the Little Missouri National Grassland.

Officials say a U.S. Forest Service team from Idaho has come in to lend a hand, and now the number of people battling the blaze has reached 100.

We've learned the fire has grown slightly to about eight and a half square miles, and as of last night, was only 15 percent contained.

Because of the size of this fire, McKenzie County Commissioners have issued a fire emergency and disaster declaration.


UPDATE 7/10 5:55 P.M.: Firefighters' tireless work to contain a fire over the last two days in the hills near Grassy Butte seem to paying off.

Grassy Butte Fire Chief Kyle Chernenko says the fire is contained 75-to-80 percent on the McKenzie County side.

Chernenko says firefighters hope to have it fully contained by Tuesday morning.

Shifting winds have made battling the blaze difficult, taking the fire in different directions each way.

Terrain has also presented a challenge, as volunteers have often had to jump down and do battle in ditches and coulees.

Volunteers from about 10 local agencies, as well as US Forest Service teams, have responded to the call for help.

"A lot of people are working a lot of long hours on it and been working very hard. It's been a big part, having everybody from the surrounding areas coming and helping too," said Chernenko.

Chernenko says the community has stepped up in a big way, donating food and water. He says small donations like that go a long way in letting the firefighters know they're appreciated.


"The terrain is unbelievable. It's not your normal rolling hills, that's for sure," said Karolin Jappe, McKenzie County emergency manager.

That's just one of the many difficulties firefighters dealt with as they struggled to contain a fire near Grassy Butte that grew from 400 acres to about 3500 acres over the course of the day.

Jappe says the area is extremely dry and the fire has plenty of fuel in the form of trees and shrubs.

More than a half-dozen local fire volunteer fire departments responded to try to contain the blaze, as well as the US Forest Service.

Jappe says departments sent as many as they could, but also had to be thoughtful about not leaving their own areas unprotected.

The firefighters worked tirelessly from as many sides as they could, including from the air, to get the fire under control.

Jappe says the local communities stepped up in a big way, donating food and water to help the firefighters get through the day.

Officials expect the fire to be contained within the next two-to-three days.

"I'm so proud of the guys because when I got there last night it was blazing. I didn't even know which way the fire chief was going to start. I mean, they'd already started, but it was just unbelievable. I think they've done a terrific job. Pretty proud of my first responders, that's for sure," said Jappe.


Original Story: West Dunn Fire Rescue responded to a grass fire near Grassy Butte late Saturday night into early Sunday morning, according to a post on the department's Facebook page.

The post said three grass rigs and a water tender originally responded.

According to the Dickinson Police Department's Facebook page, US Forest Service crews from Minnesota are responding as well, reaching Dickinson around 11:30 a.m.

DPD's post said the fire has burnt about 400 acres so far.

We'll continue to follow this story as it develops.