AS I SEE IT
By Neal A. Shipman
While everyone is welcoming the final arrival of spring, one of the greatest dangers we have at this time of the year is that of grass fires. Which is why McKenzie County, as well as the majority of other counties in the state, has enacted a burn ban.
Last spring, the burn ban that was placed by McKenzie County was in effect all year due to drought conditions. That meant that there was no fireworks, no open campfires and no discharge of firearms, which was met with a lot of public outcry.
But the call to prohibit fires last year was a sound decision. There were still countless fires that consumed thousands of acres. And one only has to remember the Grassy Butte fire that consumed thousands of acres of pristine Badlands last July. Some of the fires were caused by motorists throwing cigarette butts out their vehicle windows, some were caused by farmers, while others started from oilfield accidents and lightning strikes.
Regardless of how fires start, they pose serious risk to lives and property.
Hopefully, this year, with some timely rains, the ban will only be during high fire danger conditions.
Until fire conditions improve, this year’s burn ban will mirror last year’s burn ban, in that on days when the North Dakota Rangeland Fire Index is in the High, Very High or Extreme category, and/or a Red Flag Warning has been issued for McKenzie County, a burn ban will be in effect. And that ban will prohibit the ignition of fireworks, garbage burning, campfires, the burning of farm or crop land and unnecessary off-road motorized vehicle travel.
But on those days when the fire index is low or moderate, McKenzie County residents will be permitted to burn as long as they have secured a burn permit.
The key caveat on those low fire danger days according to Karolin Jappe, county emergency manager, is obtaining a burn permit. Which Jappe says is as easy as going online and printing one off, or contacting her for help in securing one. Farmers may burn without a permit, but only when burning an agricultural field or ditch.
In an effort to keep residents informed on the current fire danger, Jappe will be posting the North Dakota Rangeland Fire Index on the McKenzie County Emergency Management Facebook page. In addition, fire condition information is available online at the N.D. Department of Emergency Services website, www.nd.gov/des/.
As the countryside begins to green up, it is easy to think that there is no chance of grass or shrubs to burn. But that is a common misconception. There is a tremendous amount of dead and dry grass lying underneath all of that greenery. And when that dry grass catches fire, it burns.
So this spring, and all summer long, be extra vigilant when it comes to the danger of starting a wild fire. Before you decide to have a campfire, go hunting or drive off-road, check the fire danger levels.
Do your part to make sure that you are not to blame for a fire that could threaten our countryside.