Wildland fire training keeps North Dakota firefighters prepared


Over 5 acres of land burned on the Standing Rock Reservation this afternoon. But it was all a training to prepare if the real thing comes along. Shelby Rose was there and brings us the story.

“It’s already greener than what it was last year, but that can change really fast,” said Zach Kellerman, squad boss with the North Dakota Forest Service. 

So, more than 25 national guard members, volunteer firefighters, and others across the state came out to Fort Yates to train in wildland firefighting.

National Guard member Brittany Ragan said, “Digging hand lines, the control lines, making sure that the fire doesn’t cross over to the other side.”

It was a pretty hot and windy day out on the hills, so keeping track of the weather was especially important to the safety of everyone involved.

“It’s definitely important to keep an eye on the weather, the wind speed, the fire behavior,” added Ragan.

As you can see, what I”m wearing right now is not what you typically think of when a firefighter comes to mind. What the trainees are wearing here today are fire resistant clothes. Meaning that it takes a little bit longer for them to burn.

Kellerman said, “Just to make sure that everybody gets prepared in case we have some emergencies. We had the drought last summer and everything, so it’s good to have people ready to go if we need them.”

Preparing for this controlled burn is a joint effort from many state and federal agencies including the North Dakota department of emergency services, forest service, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. 

“A joint effort meaning that all of the tribes and all of the agencies within North Dakota are willing to work together in a good way for the protection of resources,” said Standing Rock Sioux chairman Mike Faith. 

While this training will help these people get jobs in North Dakota and across the country, that’s not the only reason why they do it.

“Appreciation and doing a service to your community is the biggest thing. That’s the reason why I do it,” said TAT Fire Management squad boss trainee Thomas Nash.

This training exercise also represents one of Governor Burgum’s 5 strategic initiatives – tribal engagement. 

The North Dakota National Guard also got involved with the training. They used one of their Black Hawk Helicopters to pick up water from Lake Oahe into this 550 gallon tank. Then the helicopter flew over the controlled fire multiple times to make sure it was completely out. Using this method is something that could be utilized if any fire got big enough. 

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