Regent firefighters dispatched to fire east of Hettinger

The month of April came in hot, literally.

A combination of light snowfall, sparse rainfall, relatively high temperatures and unreasonably high wind speeds has created the perfect conditions for fire hazards.

A view looking towards the Adams County landfill as it burns on April 1. The blaze started at noon that day and by 7:30 p.m. they were sending the last fire trucks home. [PHOTO BY NOLAN DIX | For The Herald]
A view looking towards the Adams County landfill as it burns on April 1. The blaze started at noon that day and by 7:30 p.m. they were sending the last fire trucks home.
[PHOTO BY NOLAN DIX | For The Herald]
The month of April came in hot, literally.

A combination of light snowfall, sparse rainfall, relatively high temperatures and unreasonably high wind speeds has created the perfect conditions for fire hazards.

Those conditions have sparked fires in northwest South Dakota and southwest North Dakota.

Local counties have recently started to impose burn bans, and the restrictions have even been coming from the capitol.

On Wednesday, April 1, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple declared a fire emergency throughout the state due to the dry conditions, high temperatures and high wind speeds. Dalrymple also issued a burn ban to areas designated as “high,” “very high,” and “extreme” on the North Dakota Fire Rating system.

The same day Dalrymple issued the fire emergency, a fire broke out in the Hettinger landfill east of town.

According to Hettinger Fire Chief Mark Faller, they were alerted of the fire shortly after noon that day, and multiple fire departments were called to the scene.

At the site of the fire, volunteers from Reeder, Lemmon, Keldron, Grand River, and Regent were present to help Hettinger’s volunteers with the efforts.

Faller said one of the harder obstacles of fighting the fire was the terrain. The sloping hills and rocky ground was a difficulty they had to overcome.

But after four hours of battling the blaze they began sending some of the trucks home. Around 4 p.m. they started releasing some of the volunteers from communities furthers from Hettinger, and by 7:30 the last truck had left.

The next day, on Thursday, April 2, the highway department poured dirt over the section of the landfill that had been burning in order to be completely sure the fire was extinguished. After adding the dirt, the area was examined further and found no evidence of continued burning.

Though the fire was contained within hours, it wasn’t before surrounding property owners suffered damages.

One of those owners was Kourtney Kindsfater, whose land rests near the landfill pit.

Kindsfater was notified shortly after noon and immediately called 911. The emergency responders had already been notified of the fire.

A friend said that he saw the flames moving quickly so he notified Kindsfater.

“He saw it leaving the pit, climbing the hill, leaving the landfill, going up the hill,” Kindsfater said. “He knew it was headed straight for the house.”

He estimated the distance between the start of the fire and his home as about a mile to a mile and a half. When he was heading to his house, the presence of the fire was obvious.

“It was extremely fast,” Kindsfater said. “When I got to my road you couldn’t see my house.”

Kindsfater suffered damages to different parts of his property including the surrounding trees, pasture and fences. The smell of smoke also lingered in his house days later.

He said the fire could have been worse for his family and the property. What helped slow the blaze down was the fact that he mows in between his trees on his property. When the fire approached the shelter belt, the short grass left little fuel for the fire.

Kindsfater could not be more appreciative for the volunteers fighting the fire.

“All of our local fire departments did a phenomenal job,” Kindsfater said. “They were awesome and we are very grateful to them.”

Southwest North Dakota has not been the only area affected by the dry conditions. Harding County had been fighting their own blaze just days before the Hettinger landfill caught fire. Volunteers from both Rhame and Bowman were dispatched to the area.

As long as the area continues to be dry, windy and hot, chances are the burning restrictions will continue and fire hazards will be present.

Currently burning restrictions are in effect for Slope, Bowman, Adams and Hettinger counties.

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