We have some answers after a grass fire near Williston shut down the highway over the weekend.
Williston Fire Department Chief of Operations Matthew Clarke said, “Approximately two hours into the fire itself, Williston Rural requested our mutual aid response. We were able to send several rush apparatus and several tender apparatus along with structural support from engines.”
According to the Williston Rural Fire Protection District, mutual aid came from 10 other departments in the area.
Help even came from nearby farmers and private freshwater truck drivers lending a hand.
Clarke says the amount of grass burned was over 2,000 acres.
“In the timeframe that I’ve been here, I’ve been here since 2015, that’s the largest fire that we’ve had in our immediate area,” he said.
He says due to the magnitude of the fire, one of his department’s brush trucks was completely engulfed in flames.
Crew members inside the truck at the time were just inches from getting out of the way.
Amanda Black was an onlooker and she says she’s never seen anything like this before.
“Just the way it took the tree and just sucked it all up and the truck. With the houses, it could’ve been a really bad situation. It was in general, but it could’ve been worse,” Black said.
“In that situation, they did what they could and, you know, there’s steps we’re taking in the future to try and prevent a similar occurrence from happening,” Clarke said. “But more importantly we’re happy that our crew members are safe.”
The fire is still under investigation, but Williston Rural Fire Protection District says the cause appears to have been a bird that was electrocuted on an electrical line and fell to the ground, starting the fire.
Clarke says with the dry conditions we’re continuing to see, it’s important to be aware of what you’re doing outdoors.
“Even a small fire or campfire or a small burn fire in the back of someone’s home may have seemed small and incidental, but quickly can pose a problem for surrounding neighborhoods,” he said.
Clarke says the estimate for a new truck could cost a little over $100,000.
He says they hope to have a replacement within the next month or so.