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nddes insights April 2021

nddes coordinates weekend wildfire response with local, Tribal, State and federal agencies

NDDES and the North Dakota National Guard, in collaboration with several local, tribal, state and federal agencies, responded to two large wildfires over the April 30-May 2 weekend as the blazes scorched thousands of acres in western North Dakota.

Critical fire conditions, including strong winds, exacerbated the situation at the Roosevelt Creek Fire in the Little Missouri National Grassland, north of Medora, which had started on April 28. The fire ended up burning more than 4,600 acres before crews reached about 80 percent containment as of May 4.

Another large fire on the Fort Berthhold Indian Reservation, about six miles south of Mandaree, North Dakota, burned an estimated 9,800 acres. On May 4, that fire was about 75 percent contained. Both locations required crews to traverse extremely rugged terrain.

On April 30, crews operating two N.D. Army National Guard Black Hawk helicopters assisted with fire-fighting operations by emplacing water with 600-gallon Bambi buckets. Another North Dakota helicopter left the next day to assist with the Roosevelt Creek Fire.

As conditions began to deteriorate near Mandaree, two South Dakota National Guard Black Hawks came to North Dakota to assist through an Emergency Management Assistance Compact, or EMAC. The North Dakota and South Dakota aircraft unloaded more than 100,000 gallons on both fires over the weekend.

A third fire by Manning, North Dakota, burned another 1,800 acres over the weekend. Personnel from the N.D. Forest Service and N.D. Civil Air Patrol were on-hand to support firefighters suppressing the blaze there.

“This was a great team effort among many different groups. In addition to local, tribal and federal agencies, we had assistance from our state partners at the N.D. Forest Service, N.D. National Guard and N.D. Civil Air Patrol,” said NDDES Response Section chief Amy Anton. “This successful response was the end result of months of pre-coordination and planning. I want to express my gratitude to everyone who responded so quickly and efficiently. Thanks to their efforts, and those of our incredible volunteer firefighters, we had no injuries and little damage to structures in the areas affected by these wildfires.”
A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter disperses water May 1 from a Bambi bucket while responding to the Roosevelt Creek Fire in the Little Missouri National Grassland.

mitigation matters: burgum proclaims severe summer weather awareness week

Gov. Doug Burgum proclaimed April 26-30 as Severe Summer Weather Awareness Week in North Dakota.

Severe Summer Weather Awareness Week is an annual event to keep the public informed and remind them of the potential risks of summer storms. These storms can produce lightning, damaging winds, hail, flash flooding, rural fires, power outages, and can cause the release of hazardous materials. They also cause injury and death, as well as extensive damage to property each year.

“It is important that all North Dakotans are well-informed and prepared to protect themselves from severe summer storms. Families, schools and businesses also should have plans to follow for when severe weather strikes,” said North Dakota Homeland Security Director Cody Schulz.

The National Weather Service (NWS), N.D. Department of Emergency Services (NDDES) and N.D. Emergency Management Association (NDEMA), along with other agencies, have recommended that the citizens of North Dakota keep informed through various means of alerts. The alerts include outdoor warning sirens, radio and television broadcasts, all-hazards radio and cable-interrupt alerts. These systems were tested on Wednesday, April 28. Currently, all these methods may not be available in all areas of the state; however, radio and television outlets broadcast current weather conditions and predictions during storm situations.

“Owning an all-hazards radio can serve as a great tool for keeping your family safe in an emergency,” Schulz said. “All-hazards radios are automatically activated by the NWS when a potentially severe storm is approaching.”

For more information on purchasing an all-hazards radio, visit your local electronics, hardware or other retail stores. For more information about Severe Summer Weather Awareness Week, visit the National Weather Service at https://www.weather.gov/bis/nd_summer_awareness_1.

State Radio Holds Annual Fundraiser during National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week

In addition to their day-to-day duties serving the citizens and emergency responders of North Dakota, the dispatch team at North Dakota State Radio this year raised $1,245 for a county deputy and his family during this year’s National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week (NPSTW) held April 11 -17. State Radio runs a fundraiser annually to coincide with NPSTW, using the funds to benefit a partner agency in law enforcement or other first responders.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the team hosted an online fundraiser, which was used to aid the family of Wells County Deputy Andrew Givens. Andrew’s son, Liam Givens, was born Sept. 23, 2020 and was diagnosed with SCID (Severe Combined Immune Deficiency). He was transported to a children's hospital in Bismarck where he remained for over a month before being moved to Rochester, Minnesota. He and his family underwent genetic testing since Liam required a bone marrow transplant for survival.

Liam Givens, son of Wells County Deputy Andrew Givens.

Fortunately, Liam’s 2-year-old sister Lindi was a match, but because of COVID-19 protocols the procedure was delayed for months. Liam eventually received this life saving bone marrow transplant, which has seemed to work, and was released from the hospital in Rochester to return home in March 2021.

During this time, Andrew and his wife Megan have had to miss work to be at the hospital with Liam and Lindi. They also have had to refurbish their home to fit Liam's needs resulting in significant medical bills.

“We just want to thank everyone who was able to support the Givens family through this difficult time by sharing the fundraiser on social media and through financial donations,” said Brandy Dahlin, State Radio dispatch supervisor. “We couldn't help others during Telecommunicators Week without all of you!”

NPSTW is a time to celebrate and thank those who dedicate their lives to serving the public. It is a week set aside so everyone can be made aware of dispatchers’ hard work and dedication.

NDDES Team creates informational tool for state wildfire tracking

Editor's Note: Each month, the "OnPoint" feature is used to recognize an NDDES employee, team or emergency management partner who has gone above and beyond in serving the state's citizens and supporting NDDES's vision for a safe, secure and resilient North Dakota.

To provide agency leaders with more situational awareness during the state’s coordination and response to wildfires this year, a team of NDDES employees was tasked with developing an informational dashboard depicting fire events in North Dakota using GIS technology.

Phil Peterschick, GIS Section chief; Jason Stanley, GIS specialist; and Geneva Anderson, WebEOC administrator; created the wildfire dashboard by first procuring and implementing a software add- on/upgrade to the state’s WebEOC platform. WebEOC is an incident management tool used to coordinate state support to local and tribal governments and is available to emergency managers and state and federal partners. WebEOC users now can access this dashboard, which displays fires reported real-time via WebEOC, as well as historical data from the Integrated Reporting of Wildland-Fire Information (IRWIN) reporting system used by fire departments. Bringing the two data sets together will provide response agencies with a more complete picture of the state’s wildfire incidents, including the number of fires recorded within the state this year and how many acres were burned during those incidents.

This project marks the first time these data sets have been able to be visually depicted together.

“This implementation was a joint effort with IT staff, both from NDDES and ND IT, Geneva, the GIS section, as well as the North Dakota Forest Service and State Fire Marshal’s Office. We worked together on WebEOC board building to create a dashboard that depicts purposeful information collection for wildfire activity in North Dakota, and we did it as a team,” Peterschick said.
A screenshot of the wildfire dashboard shows 815 fires have burned 78,671 acres in 2021.

NDDOH continues public health recommendations as emergency declaration ends

The North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) emphasizes the importance of prevention measures and vaccinations to reduce the risk of transmitting SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The increase in the number of active cases since early March, the emergence of new variants, and the increase in the number of hospitalizations highlight the fact that this virus is still circulating in our state.

“On April 30, the emergency declaration for the state (was) lifted; however, COVID-19 cases continue to be reported from our communities in North Dakota and people continue to be hospitalized for COVID-19,” said Kirby Kruger, disease control and forensic pathology section chief.

During the last week in April, 83 North Dakotans needed to be hospitalized for care, more than 40% were under the age of 60, and one was less than 10 years of age. The hospitalization rate among North Dakotans aged 16-49 had risen 59% in April 2021 compared to March 2021, the highest month-to-month increase in this age group in the COVID-19 pandemic thus far. Unfortunately, the Minnesota Department of Health recently announced that a child less than 10 years of age recently died from COVID-19 related complications. COVID-19 has proven to be serious and unpredictable.