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Dry Stark County conditions lead to weekend fires

Firefighters work to contain a blazing grass fire Saturday afternoon south of Gladstone. Though it is hard to estimate, about 300 acres burned, Gladstone Fire Chief Joe Wanner said.

No injuries in 300-acre burn in Gladstone

GLADSTONE -- No injuries were reported after a controlled burn took off and scorched about 300 acres Saturday, fire officials said.

Firefighters were called south of town at about 11:30 a.m. by a concerned neighbor, Gladstone Fire Chief Joe Wanner said. Though landowner Kurt Martin had called the chief to say he would be performing a controlled burn, it got out of control causing the blaze, Wanner said.

Once firefighters were on scene, the wind switched direction three times and fires kept reigniting, Wanner said. The fire spread to a neighboring property. The terrain is among the "roughest" in the district, along a riverbed that couldn't be crossed in spots, and it also contains steep areas, he said. Gladstone called on the help of the Taylor Fire Department and firefighters were still working on hot spots at about 5:30 p.m.

"It's a nightmare," Taylor firefighter Ken Christianson said while on scene. "We could have sworn we had it out a dozen times."

No one will be ticketed, Wanner said adding, "Everybody here's lesson is learned."

Wanner said this is the most difficult time of year for grass fires and more are expected. Department members already responded to spot fires about three weeks ago.

"Be careful what you burn," Wanner said. "It's drier than you anticipate."

Christianson agrees.

"There's going to be a lot of these until we get some rain," he said.

Gladstone Fire Department members planned to be on standby through Saturday night to keep an eye on the charred area. "We'll wait for the humidity to rise and then relax a little," Wanner said.

Wanner said the firefighters did an excellent job. However, there were a number of onlookers and one of the department's trucks nearly had a mishap with a sightseer.

"When people see a fire, don't become a crowd," he said.

Calls to Martin were not returned Saturday.

Burn barrel fire scorches South Heart building side

By April Baumgarten

The South Heart Fire Department responded to a tin building fire 12 miles southwest of South Heart at Saturday. Fire from a burn barrel near the building scorched one side of the structure, which was owned by John Privratsky, said South Heart Fire Chief Steven Kuntz.

The fire started at approximately 1:30 p.m., Kuntz added. Firefighters had the fire extinguished at approximately 4:30 p.m.

The Stark County rangeland fire index was at medium Saturday, according to the National Weather Service in Bismarck. The medium index means weather and fuel condition indicate some potential of fire occurrence with moderate spread rate.

Although the index was medium, areas of grassland are drier than usual due to a lack of snow and mild weather, NWS meteorologist Bill Abeling said.

"At times, when it is very windy, very dry and very mild, it's more risky to burn," he said. "It is very dry out there. It can get pretty dry out there with a couple days of mild weather."