New burn ban utilizes fire index, changes daily

A new fire emergency and burn ban for Dunn County that utilizes a new way of determining when burning is allowed was passed May 1 by the Dunn County Board of Commissioners.

Burn ban




Weather and fuel indicators show the probability of erratic fire behavior is low.


Weather and fuel conditions indicate some potential for erratic fire behavior with moderate rates of spread.


Fires are active. Expect moderate and occasional high rates of spread.

Very High

Fires spread rapidly and show erratic behavior. Dangerous burning conditions exist.


Potential for large fire exists. Fires spread rapidly. Extreme fire behavior is probable. Critical burning conditions exist.



Herald Editor

Posted May 10, 2013

A new fire emergency and burn ban for Dunn County that utilizes a new way of determining when burning is allowed was passed May 1 by the Dunn County Board of Commissioners.

Compared with previous years, the new ban follows the North Dakota Rangeland Fire Danger Index and is updated on a daily basis.

The new ban was primarily chosen because the counties bordering Dunn County maintain a burn ban that utilizes the daily index, as well.

“This way, we’re all following the same program,” said Denise Brew, Dunn County Emergency Manager and 911 Coordinator.

Spreading fires is an extreme worry for the county, Brew said.

“Dunn County is a spot with a lot of pasture grass,” she said. “Areas like the badlands down by where Lost Bridge is – that’s where a little fire that was across the river on Fort Berthhold last year was very dangerous. Those are the ones that we worry about.”

The North Dakota Rangeland Fire Danger Index provides an indication of rural fire potential, including its ability to spread. The index contains five ratings – low, medium, high, very high and extreme. Should a fire ignite, it is more likely that it would grow in size on higher index days.

North Dakota is broken up into 17 different fire danger groupings. The divisions are based on predominant vegetation types, average soil moisture and topography.

The National Weather Service calculates the fire danger index every day using both the latest weather forecast information, as well as data on vegetative greenness for each of the 17 fire danger groupings. The index is based on the science of fire, and not on whether or not a burn ban is in effect for a given area.

According to the new ban, when the category reads low or medium – when the map is blue or green within the county – burning is permitted. If it’s high, very high, extreme or there’s a red flag warning, there is no burning at all.

The ban affects everything from the burn pits to the burn barrels to anything possibly that could cause a fire.

“When it gets into the extreme risk or red flag warning, it’s really strict about even driving out in grassy areas – that’s supposed to be completely stopped,” she said. “Any off-road travel, smoking, fireworks, equipment operation, it’s just an absolute no-go when it’s in the red flag zone.”

The ban the county maintained in the past was considered a full burn ban.

“Last year we had the commission put one on and it was on until they released it,” West Dunn Fire Chief Chuck Muscha said. “I prefer the old way because then there’s no questions in between – either the ban is on or it’s off.”

With the index now a daily activity, Muscha said its favorability somewhat was mixed.

“If you’ve got the burn ban on and all of a sudden you get three inches of rain, in order to lift the [previous] burn ban the commission’s got to go back in and lift that ban,” he said. “By the time that happens, it could be dry again and the potential of doing some controlled burns is gone.”

The West Dunn Fire Department last week battled two such burns that went wrong – one north of Killdeer and one south of Manning.

“It happens every year,” Muscha said. “When you get permission to burn, you’re supposed to stay there and watch that until it’s out.”

Brew updates the fire index advisory posted in Manning, north of the courthouse, each morning. Muscha is in the process of obtaining similar indexes to post in Killdeer and Dunn Center. There also is one in Halliday on the fire hall.

Any individual that violates the burn ban is guilty of a Class-B misdemeanor, which is constituted by North Dakota state law.

“That’s just to let people know it can be very severe,” Brew said. “If it’s big and there’s a lot of cost going in to fighting the fire and they were negligent, it could land on their shoulders as far as the cost.”

To view the daily changing fire index, visit and search for Dunn County fire weather.

Contact Bryce Martin at

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