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Dry weather impacts fire danger in southwest ND

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Portions of southwest North Dakota are under a fire weather watch for Saturday.

Janine Vining, with the National Weather Service in Bismarck, said fire weather watches and red flag warnings are issued when there is an enhanced risk for fires to get out of control. She said that a watch is typically issued a day or two ahead of time when they believe the conditions might be possible for a fire spreading, the watch is upped to a red flag warning when they have more concrete information.

Counties under the watch include Golden Valley, Billings, Stark, Slope, Hettinger, Bowman, and Adams.

Vining said during this time of year, there are more dormant grasses that have either not greened up at all or are still in the process of greening up.

"There might be some bits of green grass coming up but for the most part we have a lot of dead grass from last year or just a lot of dormant grass, so it's quite dry," she said.

Strong southeasterly winds, about 25 mph, are expected to develop across southwest North Dakota on Saturday afternoon and persist into the early evening. Winds could gust up to 40 mph.

Afternoon relative humidity may fall into the 20 to 30 percent range, with high temperatures in the upper 60s under full sunshine, according to the weather service forecast. Some uncertainty remains on how far relative humidity may fall.

Vining said low relative humidity combined with high winds and dry grasses increases the risk for a fire to potentially get out of control.

The fire weather watch could be increased to a red flag warning should indications become more certain, Vining said.

Several counties across the state, including Stark and Hettinger, already have burn bans in place.

When the fire danger index is in the high, very high or extreme/red flag warning categories, all burning (including outdoor/backyard fire pits, fireplaces, charcoal grills and smokers) are prohibited.

Failure to comply to the ban could result in a Class B misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine up to $1,500 or 30 days in jail.

The fire danger rating map is updated daily and can be found at www.nd.gov/des/planning/fire-danger-awareness/.

"Be very, very careful and look for that fire danger index, look for whether there's a red flag warning or not out," Vining said. "Always take precautions, especially this time of year."

Sydney Mook

Sydney Mook has been covering higher education at the Grand Forks Herald since May 2018. She previously served as the multimedia editor and cops, courts and health reporter at the Dickinson Press from January 2016 to May 2018.  She graduated from the University of South Dakota with a bachelor's degree in journalism and political science in three and half years in December 2015. While at the USD, she worked for the campus newspaper, The Volante, as well as the television news show, Coyote News. She also interned at South Dakota Public Broadcasting and spent the summer before her senior year interning in Fort Knox for the ROTC Cadet Summer Training program. In her spare time, Sydney enjoys cheering on the New York Yankees and the Kentucky Wildcats, as well as playing golf. If you've got an idea for a video be sure to give her a call!

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