Statewide task force bringing fire departments together to fight wildland fires

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With more than 1,700 fires recorded across North Dakota, the dangerous conditions have led to a statewide partnership.

A task force has been created between the North Dakota Forest Service and the Department of Emergency Services to help with fighting wildland fires.

With any fire department in the state eligible to sign up for the program, they say will be a huge help.

“We’re volunteers, so we’re not paid staff like the career departments. It was a little harder and try and do things,” explained Rich Schock, the Kindred Fire Department Chief.

The task force was established to allow departments to respond to fires outside of the community and lend a hand.

There will be many factors taken into consideration before a team is sent to a location.

“Activation is going to depend on weather, our fuel conditions and what we’re seeing for a combination of some of those things. We’re coming into another fire weather watch week the way it looks, where there could become high possibilities. So those collaboration meetings that DES helps set up will help determine if we’re going to need to stand up the task force or if there’s going to be a need to reach out to those departments,” said Jeff Thompsan, Hazardous Chemical Officer for the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services.

The task force will help with not only personnel, but also equipment.

“We’re seeing an increase in use this year which can cause an increase in breakdowns or increase in maintenance that has to be done. So a department could be down a truck or two,” said Thompsan.

“For us to come in as assistance to them too would definitely allow them to spend some time with their families or even their jobs,” shared Schock.

The task force was first activated at the end of July to respond to a fire east of Williston.

Since the spring, departments across the state have seen calls double — causing a strain on personnel and equipment.

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