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Doug Leier: People are key to preventing wildfires

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The fire danger index in North Dakota can change daily depending on temperature, wind and precipitation forecasts.

Hunters can play an important role this fall across the tinder-dry landscape. First and foremost, consider this advice: If you see something you think needs to be reported, pick up the phone and call.

This fall more than ever, people can save property and lives by reporting wildfires. Rather than assume it’s been reported or not of concern, reporting the fire is the best first decision.

Also, hunters, farmers, anyone just enjoying the outdoor sights and sounds of fall across North Dakota, need to do their part in not unintentionally sparking a wildlife.

Considering this year’s prolonged drought, combined with typical dry, late-summer and early fall ground conditions, an elevated fire danger index in most counties will likely influence outdoor activities.

Hunters, and anyone outdoors, are urged to keep up with the daily rural fire danger index issued by the National Weather Service to alert the public to conditions that may be conducive to the accidental starting or spread of fires.

In addition, county governments have the authority to adopt penalties for violations of county restrictions related to burning bans. These restrictions apply regardless of the daily fire danger index and remain in place until each county’s commission rescinds the ban.

Hunters should consider bringing along a shovel, fire extinguisher, extra water and heavy fabric for putting out accidental fires. However, people who are not trained firefighters should not attempt to fight a fire that is out of control. Instead, contact the nearest rural fire department immediately.

Also, hunters should stay clear of tall vegetation when parking a vehicle.

The fire danger index can change daily depending on temperature, wind and precipitation forecasts. If the index reaches the high, very high or extreme category, open burning is prohibited; off-road travel with a motorized vehicle is prohibited, except for people engaged in a trade, business or occupation where it is required; and smoking is restricted to inside of vehicles, hard surface areas, homes or in approved buildings.

Information on current fire danger indexes is available at

The fire danger index provides an indication of wildland fire potential. Fire danger indexes are calculated considering temperature, humidity, wind speed, cloud cover and vegetative condition, and are rated as low, medium, high, very high or extreme.

Some guidelines

  • Restrict burning to early morning and late evening hours when winds are typically lower and humidity is higher.
  • Restrict smoking to areas free of combustible materials.
  • Use ashtrays and proper disposal containers. Clear area around fire.
  • Pay attention to fire hazards posed by exhaust systems, catalytic converters and safety chains.
  • Carry fire extinguishers and fire tools. Extinguish and discard smoking materials appropriately -- not from a vehicle.

Other resources

  • Wildland Fire Assessment System (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
  • Fire Danger Guide (North Dakota Department of Emergency Services)
  • U.S. Drought Monitor (High Plains)
  • Fire and Smoke Map (U.S. Air Quality Index)
  • Air Quality Index Map (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association)

Doug Leier is a biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.


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