Posted 3/22/16 (Tue)
By Amy Robinson
Farmer Staff Writer
Firefighters were quite busy fighting two grass fires on Sunday, March 13, in McKenzie County. The first fire, which was started by a ONEOK oil flare near Keene, ended up burning approximately 900 acres, and the second fire, which was reportedly started after some men were target shooting on land near Alexander, ended up burning another 200 acres.
“They were two good-sized fires,” stated Karolin Jappe, McKenzie County Emergency manager. “A third fire was reported to us, but ended up being a false alarm, as far as I can tell.”
Both fires came two days before the McKenzie County Commissioners signed the 2016 Fire Emergency and Burn Ban for McKenzie County. The McKenzie County Office of Emergency Management and the Upper Missouri District Health Unit (UMDHU) have been working together to get safety information out on open burning.
“There has been much confusion within McKenzie County on the proper steps people should take for open burning,” says Jappe. “That is why we want to take this opportunity to educate the community on the process and how to burn safely.”
The Board of McKenzie County Commissioners declared a Fire Emergency and Burn Ban to include a ban on the ignition of fireworks, garbage burning, campfires, burning of farm or crop land and unnecessary off-road motorized travel when the North Dakota Rangeland Fire Index is in the High, Very High, or Extreme category and/or a Red Flag Warning has been issued for McKenzie County. The commissioners signed this ban on March 15. And according to Jappe, the ban will be in place until Oct. 31, 2016.
The first place to start is to get a burn permit application from the UMDHU. This application can be found on their website at www.undhu.org. Oil, rubber, asphalt, and other materials that produce unreasonable amounts of air contaminants cannot be burned. Companies cannot get burn permits for anything considered trade waste such as pallets, spools, etc., and will have to find alternative methods of disposal.
Agricultural burning does not need a permit, but should still follow the rest of the steps. The permit application will need to be filled out completely and returned to the UMDHU Williston office during regular business hours, which includes a signature from the fire chief. The permit, if granted, is then valid for 60 days.
After receiving the permit, the instructions on the permit need to be followed. Most importantly, the McKenzie County Sheriff’s Office will need to be notified at least two hours prior to the burn. Burning activities must be attended to and supervised, at all times burning is in progress and burning is not allowed if the Fire Index is in the High, Very High, or Extreme category and/or a Red Flag Warning has been issued for McKenzie County. See the following website for the Fire Index: http://www.weather.gov/bis/fire. Scroll down one page for North Dakota.
“The McKenzie County Commissioners pass a Fire Emergency and Burn Ban for the county every year,” stated Jappe. “Even if individuals have a burn permit, if it’s a day where there’s a fire ban because the fire index is high, extremely high, or has a red flag, no one can burn anything on those days. It’s dangerous to burn on those high fire danger days.”
Grass fires can be dangerous, and every year in the United States result in the loss of lives and property. The McKenzie County Office of Emergency Management and the UMDHU know that the people in McKenzie County realize how devastating that can be. For more information, contact Jappe at 701-580-6936 or Daphne Clark (UMDHU) at 877-572-3763.