Heat, dry conditions create Red Flag warnings

If the Bowman County siren system was human, it might be asking for a vacation at this point or at least a little time off.

Posted on August 31, 2012

If the Bowman County siren system was human, it might be asking for a vacation at this point or at least a little time off. Used primarily to alert local emergency responders, such as the volunteer fire department, and to alert the public of potentially dangerous weather conditions, the sirens have been “very active” lately.

High temperatures, low humidity and dry conditions have sparked a number of wildfires in southwestern North Dakota. As of press time this week, the most recent sounding of the sirens had the local fire departments racing approximately 13 miles south of Bowman to a grass fire.

Starting last Friday, the U.S. Forest Service faced a trio of wildfires – practically at the same time. The Forest Service said the Deep Creek 12 fire, which engulfed approximately 75 acres, was reported Friday morning (approximately 3 a.m.) on the Little Missouri National Grasslands. The wildfire was located approximately 15 miles west-northwest of Amidon and was burning in grass and sagebrush. It was contained Saturday afternoon, though it is still being patrolled due to the weather conditions for possible flare-ups.

The second wildfire (referred to as the Deep Creek 2 Fire) was burning on the Dakota Prairie Grasslands and private land approximately nine miles north of Marmarth near the Montana-North Dakota border. It burned approximately 3,300 acres. According to Babete Anderson, public relations director for the U.S. Forest Service, that fire is contained with a few hot spots.

“We still have some burning in the interior,” she said Wednesday morning. “We didn’t want to take any chances with it, especially with the expected 100-degree temperatures today.”

Another blaze reported Friday night was the Sail Fire, approximately 13 miles northwest of Amidon, and burned 363 acres.

According to Babete, firefighters and support personnel have been at the three blazes for five consecutive days, and could be longer.

“We do shut down at night, but that doesn’t mean we are not out patrolling and keeping an eye on it (during the night),” she said.

A month ago, 150 acres of wheat burned in a wildfire near Mott. Several other wildfires have been reported during August as well.

As a result of the weather conditions, most of western North Dakota is in a “Red Flag warning.” A Red Flag warning also known as a Fire Weather Warning is a forecast warning issued by the United States National Weather Service to inform area firefighting and land management agencies that conditions are ideal for wildland fire ignition, and rapid propagation. After drought conditions, and when humidty is very low, and especially when high or erratic winds which may include lightning are a factor, the Red Flag Warning becomes a critical statement for firefighting agencies.

To the public, a Red Flag Warning means high fire danger with increased probability of a quickly spreading vegetation fire in the area within 24 hours.

When the North Dakota Rangeland Fire Index is classified as high, very high, or extreme for Bowman County, the county commissioners declare a burn ban. When a burn ban is enacted:

• No travel is allowed off surfaced roadways normally used for vehicular traffic except as necessary for normal farmer/rancher operations.

• Industrial operation crews and farmer/rancher operations shall have fire extinguishers and normal fire fighting equipment at hand, and industrial personnel shall remain at the job site for one-half hour after daily operations are completed.

• Smoking is restricted to inside vehicles or buildings.

• No open burning is to be allowed, including campfires, garbage or pit burning, brush field, ditch burning, fireworks or any other source of open flame.

After peaking around the century mark Wednesday, temperatures for the Bowman area are expected to cool off for the Labor Day weekend. The projected high for Labor Day is 84 with an overnight low of 51. Monday is expected to be the warmest day of next week.

While the temperatures are dropping, the chances of rainfall remain slim with just a 10 percent chance of rain on three different days next week.