nddes insights June 2021

Wildfires burn more than 100,000 acres across North Dakota so far in 2021

According to data collected by the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services and the North Dakota Forest Service, nearly 1,400 fires have scorched more than 100,000 acres across the state since January 2021. That total, which is the equivalent of about 156 square miles, is compiled through reports from local and tribal emergency managers and 9-1-1 calls, as well as historical data from the Integrated Reporting of Wildland-Fire Information (IRWIN) system used by fire departments.

Wildfire numbers this year dramatically increased when compared to fire data from 2020. Last year, about 921 fires burned a total of 11,956 acres, most of which were human-caused. This year, however, North Dakota, feeling the effects of a devastating drought cycle, has experienced some of the driest winter and spring months in 127 years of recordkeeping. Limited moisture along with warm temperatures have increased the intensity and size of wildfires this year, according to State Forester Tom Claeys.

Most recently, 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 4,600 acres, while another fire on the Fort Berthold Reservation, about six miles south of Mandaree, North Dakota, burned an estimated 9,800 acres.

“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.
“Our local fire departments, the North Dakota Forest Service, the North Dakota National Guard, North Dakota Civil Air Patrol, our team at the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services, as well as other local, tribal, state and federal partners, have all done in exemplary job serving our communities during our response to wildfires this year. We thank all of them for their hard work and selfless service,” said North Dakota Homeland Security Director Cody Schulz. “With that said, we know that many of those firefighters on the ground have been at this for a long time and have worked some grueling hours. All North Dakotans can assist their efforts by being aware of local burn ban restrictions and following local ordinances.”

Burgum urges USDA Secretary to provide flexibility in use of CRP acres to help ND ranchers fighting drought

In a video call June 16, Gov. Doug Burgum urged U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to provide additional flexibility with Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres for North Dakota ranchers who are dealing with reduced feed availability due to extreme drought conditions across North Dakota.

The governor’s request, made during preparation for the Western Governors’ Association 2021 Annual Meeting on June 30-July 1, supports a letter sent by North Dakota’s congressional delegation to Vilsack this week urging him to allow emergency haying and grazing of CRP acres prior to Aug. 1.

Burgum shared with Vilsack that fall 2020 through spring 2021 was the driest on record in North Dakota since recordkeeping began 127 years ago, and more than 100,000 acres, or 156 square miles of the state, have already burned this year in wildfires.

“Providing additional flexibility to allow CRP acres to be used for grazing and haying before Aug. 1 will give ranchers access to that additional feed before it loses its nutritional value and help producers preserve their herds,” Burgum said. “As a state, we are committed to addressing the drought with a whole-of-government response to provide assistance and relief for farmers and ranchers facing these devastatingly dry conditions.”

Burgum, Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring and other state officials hosted a town hall meeting June 17 in Washburn and similar meetings in Rugby and Medora June 18 to discuss drought conditions and response. The meetings were open to the public and were livestreamed on the governor’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/GovernorDougBurgum.

Trooper Denver Oase, center, received the Mobile Operator of the Year Award from State Radio supervisors, from left to right, Miranda Jangula, Juana Perius, Shanna Johnson and Brandy Dahlin.


Members of North Dakota State Radio had the chance to honor one of their emergency response partners in June when they presented the Mobile Operator of the Year Award for 2020 to Trooper Denver Oase, of the North Dakota Highway Patrol. The award is given each year to an emergency response partner who uses proper radio etiquette while coordinating with dispatchers and other units, and for maintaining professionalism during radio calls. Those who nominated Denver said he has exemplified these traits during their interactions with him.

“It doesn’t matter if he is on the radio or on the phone, Denver is always very professional and polite. When he calls on the phone, he always thanks dispatch for the awesome job they do and lets us know how much he appreciates us,” one of the State Radio nominators said.

Mitigation Matters: HAZMAT spills and protecting north Dakota

Written by M. Cole Baker, National Flood Insurance Program coordinator for the N.D. State Water Commission and former contingency planner of NDDES

Some might think to themselves, “I don’t deal with hazardous materials in my day-to-day life” or ask, “Why would I need to know about hazardous materials? I am not at risk of being exposed to them.” This is far from the truth.

For example, when you get into your vehicle and turn it on, that machine is being run by a hazardous material, which, of course, is gasoline. Hazardous materials (HAZMAT) are substances posing an unreasonable risk to safety and health, the environment and the property of North Dakota citizens. The term hazardous materials encompasses a vast array of products, from the relatively innocuous types, such as creosote, to highly toxic or poisonous types, such as anhydrous ammonia. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration designates nine categories of hazardous materials as follows:

  • Explosives (Class 1)
  • Gases (Class 2)
  • Flammable and combustible liquids (Class 3)
  • Flammable solids, spontaneously combustible, and dangerous when wet (Class 4)
  • Oxidizing substances and organic peroxides (Class 5)
  • Toxic/poisonous substances and poison inhalation (Class 6)
  • Radioactive materials (Class 7)
  • Corrosive substances (Class 8)
  • Miscellaneous hazardous materials/products, substances, or organisms (Class 9)

Hazardous material incidents are categorized as uncontrolled releases occurring during transportation (truck, rail or pipeline) or at a fixed source, such as a manufacturing or storage facility. Accidental releases may be due to equipment failure, human error or a natural or human-caused hazard event. NDDES maintains records of previous hazardous material release incidents. The statewide total for spills in 2020 was 896, and there have been more than 500 incidents this year.

HAZMAT releases are not only dangerous to humans, but can be extremely hazardous to the environment and animal life as well. They can get into the ground water and destroy ecosystems for miles around the area where the material was spilled. Most of the spills that happen are generally very small and do not cause a lot of damage. There’ve only been a select few cases in which spills have been harmful or big enough to cause any sort of real damage to the environment or people. Thankfully, a new spill reporting system was implemented in 2021 to better track these spills and the time it takes to clean them up is reduced.

The reporting system can be accessed at spill.nd.gov or by calling 1-833-99SPILL (1-833-997-7455), and is a one-stop shop for energy industry producers, transporters and developers, as well as the public, to report hazardous material spills and releases. Through the reporting system, state agencies can capture and archive information that can be used to better protect North Dakotans. Learn more at spill.nd.gov.

happy retirement to jill monroe!

The NDDES team said farewell to a longtime member of State Radio. Jill Monroe took her "final call" from North Dakota Highway Patrol Trooper Bennet Bitz, signifying the beginning of her retirement. Jill has served as a dispatcher for 38 years, 30 of which have been spent at State Radio.

Shanna Johnson, Jill's supervisor, said, "The knowledge we lose when Jill retires is irreplaceable, not only her dispatch knowledge but her stories and the history of N.D. State Radio. She will really be missed."

Best wishes, Jill, and enjoy your next adventure!

Maj. Gen. Al Dohrmann, director of the N.D. Department of Emergency Services, presents Jill Monroe with a commander's coin upon her retirement from State Radio after more than 30 years of service.

Help keep north Dakota's outdoor spaces safe

Recreate responsibly with these fire safety tips

On 10th anniversary of historic flooding, Burgum thanks north dakota National Guard, residents for efforts and resiliency

Gov. Doug Burgum this month expressed his gratitude for the extraordinary efforts by local, state and federal agencies, community residents and volunteers in fighting historic flooding 10 years ago.

The U.S. Geological Survey recorded 22 record crests statewide in 2011, which in turn saw more than 3,000 North Dakota National Guard members serving on flood response duty. Citizen-Soldiers and Airmen worked alongside members of local communities and with state and federal agencies including NDDES, North Dakota Department of Transportation, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in fighting rising waters.

NDDES developed a report in the Fall of 2011 outlining the significant contributions made by a broad base of Whole Community public and private partners. "The 2011 Flood Report: Response and Recovery" can be accessed here.

The North Dakota National Guard’s 2011 flood response consisted of 67,264 personnel workdays, which surpassed the 54,341 recorded during the 2009 flood response. This record was broken in November 2020 when the Guard’s COVID-19 pandemic response surpassed that number, and is currently at 116,427 personnel days worked.

“On this 10th anniversary of the historic flood that impacted Minot and surrounding communities, we remember the 4,100 homes that flooded, the more than 11,000 residents who were displaced and the hundreds of millions of dollars in damages sustained,” Burgum said. “And we honor the courage and resiliency of the residents, National Guard members, volunteers and leaders at the local, state and federal levels who fought the flood, picked up the pieces and worked together to secure permanent flood protection, including the more than $400 million committed by the State of North Dakota to the Mouse River Enhanced Flood Protection and $870 million for the Fargo-Moorhead Area Diversion projects.”

Take a look at this video created by the City of Minot, which tells the story of the community before, during and since the historic flood of 2011.