Changing conditions bring new challenges to firefighters

Half a dozen fires burned out west, from Morton to McKenzie, and down to Billings County.
Half a dozen fires burned out west, from Morton to McKenzie, and down to Billings County.(kfyr)
Published: Apr. 12, 2021 at 5:10 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - After two weeks of dry conditions and extreme fire danger, North Dakota fire crews are optimistic as rain and snow makes its way across the state.

However there are still reminders of the thousands of acres that burned this past week.

Fire crews have responded to more than four times the amount of fires this year compared to all of last according to North Dakota Forest Service.

In 2020, approximately 1,063 acres were burned. This year, in just four months, wildfires have destroyed more than 43,091 acres of land.

Half a dozen fires burned out west, from Morton to McKenzie and down to Billings County.

“It’s been pretty crazy, we’ve been working about 100 hours a week,” said North Dakota Forest Service crew lead Hunter Noor.

A 10-person fire crew from North Dakota Forest Service was dispatched around the state.

“There’s a lot of people asking questions as far as availability and who can respond and who’s available ‚” said Colorado Squad Boss trainee, Adam Ayala.

Seven firefighters were called in from Colorado, to provide mutual aid in Medora, Williston and other parts of the state.

“We’ve seen some Montana engines on some of the fires out in western North Dakota and some other Colorado engines, too,” said Noor.

The weekend brought some snow and moisture to many affected areas.

“It’s going to help us put out any of the hotspots we have on the interior,” said Horse Pasture Fire Information Officer Michael Johnson.

In the North Unit of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, crews are still monitoring what is left of the 5,000 acre fire.

“Two nights ago we had to start prepping the engines that we are using on the fire, making sure the valves are purged so we don’t get any freezing or frost damage to the engines,” said Johnson.

Fire crews are also running into driving issues, as wet roads are making the rough terrain a danger to drive through.

Firefighters are worried when the snow melts and the temperatures warm up again, they could see fires flare up.

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