Crews from the West Dunn Fire Rescue responded to a hay bale fire Thursday morning near Killdeer, with approximately 60 to 70 bales ablaze. After approximately six hours, firefighters were able to fully extinguish the flames.

West Dunn Fire Rescue posted on its Facebook page that "heavy smoke will be in the area of Killdeer for several more hours." Dunn County Emergency Manager Sarah Duttenhefner said the fire started at an acreage outside of Killdeer on its own through spontaneous combustion.

"No one had to be evacuated but it did take about five and a half to six hours to get them out. These bale fires are different than say, a structure fire or a grass fire," Duttenhefner said, explaining, "You can't extinguish them, you have to let them burn. So it's more of a monitoring process. They have perimeter to make sure it doesn't go anywhere else."

Firefighters do spray water to contain the flames, but they also break the bales apart to allow them to burn faster, Duttenhefner noted. Dunn County residents are advised to be cautious as heightened fire risk continues in the southwestern North Dakota region with little to none precipitation predicted in the forecast.

"The outlook for fire danger through this fall is still pretty high. We don't have enough moisture. Weather patterns still show drier and warmer than normal conditions," she said.

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There are some steps farmers and ranchers can take to mitigate fire risks, Duttenheffner said, such as keeping hay bales or stacks of bales a fair distance apart from each other, as well as routinely checking on the bales to make sure there's no smoke. Hay bales should not be parked in tall grass, as that increases the chances for a fire to ignite, she added.

"I'm just thankful that our volunteer fire departments are... ready all the time," she said. "They're doing a great job."

More information about fire danger levels and protocols can be found on the Dunn County's website at dunncountynd.gov.