Day 2: Reignition; Dry conditions and high-speed winds rekindle 1,000 acre fire
Dry conditions and wind gusts of almost 50 mph rekindled a fire about five miles east of Dickinson on Thursday, blocking Interstate 94 with a thick wall of gray smoke, officials said.
The two-day fire engulfed about 1,000 acres, said Stark County Emergency Manager Bill Fahlsing. No injuries were reported and no structures were destroyed, though Dickinson resident Vic Wanner was among those who lost land.
"There isn't much a person can do about it now," he said.
Officials sent out more than 50 evacuation notices Wednesday, and officials have since allowed residents to return to their homes. No notices were sent Thursday, Fahlsing said.
Electrical transmission lines in the area were shut down and rerouted, Gladstone Fire Department Chief Joe Wanner said.
The Dickinson Rural, Gladstone, South Heart and Taylor fire departments responded to a fire at about 4 p.m. Wednesday. Firefighters had the fire under control at about 7:30 p.m., DRFD Chief Andy Paulson said, adding the GFD stayed on-scene through the night.
The four fire departments were called back to the scene at about 10:15 a.m. in addition to the North Dakota Forest Service, Fahlsing said.
Heavy smoke forced Dickinson area law enforcement to close Interstate 94 at about 11:40 a.m. for a second time, said North Dakota Highway Patrol Sgt. Dan Haugen. Law enforcement opened the westbound lanes and one eastbound lane at about 2:50 p.m.
The wind reignited hotspots throughout the day, Joe Wanner said.
"It just reared up, and it takes everything we have to stop it again," he said.
Firefighters had the fire contained as of 4 p.m. and were able to keep it from crossing I-94, Joe Wanner added.
"This is about as dry as I've ever seen it," he said. "It's extremely volatile. Let's put it that way. It's like gas."
There was some minor communication problems since the department was trying out a different system, Joe Wanner said, adding it was hard at times to get through all the "chatter."
A red flag warning was in effect for western North Dakota throughout Thursday, which means conditions are prime for fires. Firefighters were not worried about the fire reaching an oil well because oil companies take precautions to protect them, Paulson said.
Joe Wanner added residents should be prepared to move if a fire approaches their home and they should also be careful if burning anything. Firefighters also battled a blaze south of Dickinson on Monday that left one man injured. Another man's farm was demolished.
"This is going to be typical this year if we don't get some rain," he said. "Be really careful because it doesn't take much."
Firefighters were still at the site after 6 p.m. and he anticipated it would have to be monitored through the night.