Gov. Doug Burgum today visited Billings County to survey areas damaged by a wildfire that broke out Thursday, thanking the firefighters and emergency services personnel from more than 20 agencies who fought the blaze and successfully kept it from reaching the city of Medora, which had been evacuated as a precaution.
“We are deeply grateful to the Billings County and Medora fire departments, the North Dakota National Guard, the U.S. Forest Service, North Dakota Forest Service, North Dakota Department of Emergency Services, National Park Service, and all the other local, state and federal team members and volunteers who collaborated to keep the wildfire contained and residents safe,” Burgum said.
“Because of their quick action, teamwork and communication, the wildfires were contained, saving lives and property, including historic Medora,” the governor added. “As drought conditions persist, we will continue to keep resources at the ready and encourage North Dakotans to observe burn bans and follow safety protocols to prevent wildfires.”
Burgum declared a statewide wildfire emergency on Thursday, enabling the North Dakota National Guard to deploy two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters with water buckets to help fight the fire. Earlier Thursday, Burgum had placed the Guard on standby to provide help if additional resources were needed to respond to a growing number of wildfires in North Dakota as extreme drought conditions continue to spread across the state.
During a press conference held today in Medora against the backdrop of scorched hills next to the Burning Hills Amphitheatre, the governor noted that the area burned by wildfires so far this year in North Dakota – over 30,000 acres – is more than triple the 9,200 acres that burned in wildfires during all of 2020. Eight counties saw wildfires on Thursday alone. This week’s National Drought Mitigation Center report shows 47% of North Dakota in extreme drought – up from 27% last week – with 38% in severe drought and 15% in moderate drought.
The Billings County fire was about 50% contained Friday afternoon and had burned more than 3,000 acres but resulted in no injuries, deaths or lost structures, Burgum noted.
“This is a credit to all of the volunteers, all of the firefighters and all of the leadership that went into this,” he said during the press conference.
For information on how to prevent wildfires, or to view maps showing current burn ban restrictions and fire danger levels, visit www.ndresponse.gov.