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North Dakota

North Dakota

Escaped Burn Reviewed in North Dakota

May - 2008

A regional team completed a 4-day review of actions at Long Lake National Wildlife Refuge related to a prescribed fire which escaped control lines on May 14. The findings were reported to the Refuge Manager and are expected to be released publicly.

The fire was contained in 2 hours and burned about 350 acres of privately owned land, but did not damage buildings or cause injuries.

“The good news is nobody was hurt, and the fire just consumed some grass and damaged some fences. More importantly, there is probably some valuable information … that may prevent an incident like this from occurring on another refuge,” said Shane Del Grosso, Zone Fire Management Officer for refuges in North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas.

The four-person review team, led by Paul Pallas of Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, was convened May 19 and completed its investigation May 22. Their role was to determine whether or not the prescribed fire plan was adequate; whether the plan was followed; whether all personnel involved were adequately qualified; the factors and conditions that led to the escape, and whether these could have been avoided. The team also includes staff from two other refuges and the South Dakota Division of Wildland Fire Suppression.

The prescribed fire was ignited at 12 noon by an 8-person fire crew from three refuges, which conducted an earlier test burn to determine conditions. The escape occurred at 2:20 p.m. and was contained at 4:20 p.m. with the help of the Sterling Volunteer Fire Department and a county road maintenance crew. Satellite mapping showed that 656.6 acres was burned outside of the planned area. A total of 301 acres were on the refuge, with the other 355.6 acres on three private ranches.

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