Drought leads to skyrocketing wildfires in North Dakota

Monday, June 21, 2021

MINOT, N.D. (AP) — Officials in drought-stricken North Dakota say wildfires have burned about 156 square miles of land across the state so far this year, more than seven times the amount from all of last year.

The North Dakota Department of Emergency Services and North Dakota Forest Service report that nearly 1,400 fires have been confirmed in 2021. There were a total of 921 fires recorded last year that burned fewer than 20 square miles.

North Dakota has experienced some of the driest winter and spring months in 127 years of recordkeeping, according to State Forester Tom Claeys. Limited moisture along with warm temperatures have increased the intensity and size of wildfires this year, the Minot Daily News reported.

Several local, tribal, state and federal agencies responded to two large wildfires over the April 30-May 2 weekend. The Roosevelt Creek Fire in the Little Missouri National Grassland, north of Medora, burned more than 7 square miles, while another fire on the Fort Berthold Reservation, about six miles south of Mandaree, burned more than 15 square miles.

“This year, it’s imperative that we all know how to mitigate against wildfires, especially as we make plans to enjoy the summer months by recreating outside with friends and family,” Claeys said. “With Independence Day right around the corner, we need to raise awareness now to reduce wildfire risk.”

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