Three small grass fires near and in Dickinson the past two days have shown area authorities and meteorologists just how dry southwest North Dakota is.
While temperatures are on an upward trend — the National Weather Service predicts that highs will be in the 40s this weekend and the 50s early next week — there’s no precipitation in the 14-day forecast.
“It’s quite dry out there and certainly this would be the time of year that’s more susceptible to grass fires,” said Bill Abeling, a meteorologist with the weather service.
The Dickinson Fire Department quelled a small fire behind Second Nature Greenhouse early Friday afternoon after a device on a Montana-Dakota Utilities transformer malfunctioned.
The Dickinson Rural Fire Department responded to its second small grass fire in two days late Thursday night.
About 7 acres of a hayfield and an abandoned RV were lost in the fire 4 miles northeast of Dickinson. Rural Fire Chief Andy Paulson said there was no indication as to what started the blaze.
On Wednesday, a spark from a passing train likely started the fire that burned a small patch of dry grass near a housing development and the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s office about a quarter-mile from Patterson Lake.
The Dickinson area has received about .27 inches of precipitation since the beginning of January, Abeling said. The area’s average to date is .71 inches, putting Dickinson nearly a half-inch behind normal precipitation.
“Not that we really want (snow),” Paulson said. “We do need moisture, though.”
Stark County Sheriff Terry Oestreich said anyone burning garbage or brush should first call authorities to help avoid unnecessary calls to area fire departments.
Babette Anderson, the public affairs officer for the U.S. Forest Service’s Dakota Prairie Grassland region, said the Fire Danger Rating remains low for much of North Dakota, based on environmental factors.
However, she said Dickinson’s two incidents show people must stay alert when dealing with fires — even small ones.
“We want people to be careful,” Anderson said. “That’s probably the key thing there.”