Grass fire sparks burn ban in county
By Kate Ruggles
Farmer Staff Writer
A huge grass fire in the Grassy Butte area has prompted McKenzie County to initiate another county-wide burn ban.
According to Babete Anderson, the Public Affairs officer for the Dakota Prairie Grasslands, the Cottonwood Creek fire was reported around 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 21. The fire covers 665 acres, and about 90 people were involved in helping to contain the fire, including the Grassy Butte Fire Department, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, some contract engines and a helicopter.
“As of right now, the fire is about 30 percent contained,” states Anderson.
There are hopes that the fire will be completely contained by the end of this week, weather and terrain permitting.
McKenzie County issued a burn ban earlier in the year, in March, because of the absence of moisture and green vegetation and the potential for high winds.
Due to the Cottonwood Creek fire, as well as similar dry conditions, and the fact that according to Anderson, this is a typical fire season for North Dakota, McKenzie County has initiated a second county-wide burn ban.
“Right now the fire index is very high. Anytime the fire index is extreme, people are not permitted to burn,” states Jerry Samuelson, director of the McKenzie County Emergency Management Services.
Samuelson also states that with hunting season upon the area, McKenzie County would like for everyone to be careful not to burn until the ban is lifted and the fire index drops.
According to the burn ban, all open burning of any outdoor fire that may create a public safety hazard, is prohibited, including, but not limited to, barrel/garbage burning, campfires, chimneys, cooking fires (i.e. barbecue grills and pits), fire pits, fire rings, patio heaters, prescribed burns/controlled burns, fireworks (except for professional commercial fireworks displays), welders or cutting torches without adequate fire suppression equipment on hand, charcoal grills and smoking (i.e. cigarettes, cigars, etc.) without an ashtray or proper disposal container.
Citizens of McKenzie County are also requested to follow their user manuals and manufacturer guidelines as well as take safety precautions such as having an appropriate fire extinguisher, water and shovel available.
Anderson also states that the Bennett Campground is closed, as is the southern border of the Maah Daah Hey Trail that extends to County Road 50, the Cottonwood Trail and the Bennett Trail.
“Even though they hope to have the fire completely contained by the end of the week, there will still be interior burning within that containment line,” states Anderson. “People may still probably see and smell smoke past the point of containment.”
The ban will be in effect for McKenzie County until further notice. For information on the fire index, call the McKenzie County Sheriff’s Department or the McKenzie County Disaster Emergency Service. or visit www.nd.gov/des.