Strong winds and dry conditions fueled a grass fire that burned 880 acres north of Richardton on Monday, injuring a firefighter and a rancher’s calves and damaging electrical infrastructure.
Visibility in the area was near zero at times Monday and caused one firefighting truck to roll off the side of the road, Richardton Fire Chief Jason Kostelecky said.
One of the firefighters inside sought medical help for injuries suffered in the crash, but his scans did not indicate serious problems, said the chief of the all-volunteer fire department. The vehicle, a pickup with a pumping unit, was damaged but some components might be salvaged.
The fire also harmed some calves in the area, but Kostelecky was unsure of the extent of their injuries.
Firefighters managed to get the blaze under control around sunset Monday and continued to monitor the area Tuesday. Some trees were still smoldering Tuesday afternoon, as well as manure piles and fence posts.
Kostelecky said many farmers and ranchers helped out, whether by pulling out their tractors to help stop the fire or by supplying food and water to firefighters.
Weather conditions have been ripe for wildfires in western North Dakota in recent days, with low humidity and strong winds. The highest wind gust in the region Monday was 79 mph in Mott, according to the National Weather Service.
The weather service also posted a red flag warning for the southwestern part of the state, for “critical fire weather conditions” stretching roughly from northwest of Dickinson to Sioux County south of the Bismarck-Mandan area.
Other fires were reported Monday and Tuesday near Minot, McVille in Nelson County and on the Spirit Lake Reservation in northeast North Dakota.
More than one-fourth of North Dakota is in extreme drought, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor Map. Most of the rest of the state is in severe drought, with the southeastern corner in moderate drought. No areas are yet in exceptional drought, the worst category.