Weather Forecast


3 wildfires scorch western ND: Blaze near Mandaree burns 6,000 acres

Dickinson resident Troy Huber took the photo above of a fire burning near Mandaree on Thursday from Highway 22. The fire was still active Friday and about 6,000 acres have burned.1 / 2
A charred Killdeer fire truck sits along Highway 22 Friday morning. The truck burned after its engine stalled while stationed to fight a grass fire six miles north of Killdeer on Tuesday.2 / 2

While the state has for the most part escaped the large-scale wildfires garnering national headlines and burning the landscapes of neighboring states South Dakota and Montana, three fires have caused havoc this week in western North Dakota.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs reported Friday that the Little Swallow fire, which started Wednesday in the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, had grown to consume 6,000 acres and was just 40 percent contained.

Northwest of Dickinson, visitors to Bennett Campground on the Dakota Prairie Grasslands were evacuated after the Trail Side fire broke out around 4 p.m. Friday afternoon, according to a statement from the U.S. Forest Service. The blaze was about 10 miles northwest of Grassy Butte in what was described as "very rough terrain," said Butch Fleck of the Grassy Butte Fire Department.

The fire was burning in juniper and grass in the rugged Badlands, although no structures were being threatened as of Friday evening, according to the Forest Service.

Dickinson resident Troy Huber was traveling on Highway 22 about 35 miles north of Killdeer when he and other motorists found themselves backed up because of the Little Swallow fire.

"I would say I waited for about 45 minutes before they let us through," Huber said. "There was a lot of smoke and you could see big flames at times."

On Tuesday, the Killdeer Fire Department lost a pumper truck when its engine failed while at a fire near Highway 22 about six miles north of Killdeer.

As of Friday evening, no injuries had been attributed to any of the fires, although one home was evacuated because of the Killdeer fire and, according to the BIA, two residences had been evacuated from the area where the Little Swallow fire

was burning.

When reached Friday for comment about the blaze in his jurisdiction, Killdeer Fire Chief Chuck Muscha declined to comment to the Press, insisting that he talk to his local newspaper first.

Fifty-six firefighters from Three Affiliated Tribes, the Northern Cheyenne Reservation, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife and North Dakota State Forest Service were battling the fire, said BIA spokeswoman Nedra Darling.

Fleck -- who estimated the Trail Side blaze to be about "three miles long" -- said firefighters from Watford City, Billings County and McKenzie County were also on scene at the fire as of 6 p.m. Friday evening.

Stage I fire restrictions remain in place for the Little Missouri National Grasslands, according to the Forest Service. Under these restrictions, building, maintaining, attending or using a fire or campfire is only acceptable within a developed recreation site equipped with metal fire rings or elevated charcoal grills.

As of Friday evening, the Little Swallow fire was the only wildfire in North Dakota listed on the National Interagency Fire Center's website.

Bryan Horwath
A Wisconsin native, Horwath has been covering news in the Oil Patch of North Dakota since 2012. Horwath currently serves as the senior agriculture and political reporter for The Dickinson Press and, despite the team's tendency to always let him down, remains a diehard Minnesota Vikings fan.
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