August 29, 2003

August 23, 2003

The afternoon of Saturday, August 23, 2003 , I decided to go for a hike to photograph some late-season wildflowers.

I left at about 2:20 in for a native pasture in Painted Woods township. 

It was hot Ė 102 degrees, and so I wore a cap and put on sunscreen. 

I also did something that I normally donít do when I hike.  Instead of carrying a water bottle, I carried a small cooler with me. Yeah, it was awkward to carry, but otherwise I wouldn't have made it very far.

There was no wind, and the air was hot. About every 20 yards I stopped and put a piece of ice in my mouth. That was just enough to cool me down.

At about 3:00 p.m. , the wind came up, and started blowing heavily from the northwest. That made photography difficult, but it didnít feel near as warm. 

I took numerous photographs of dotted blazingstar, hairy umbrellawort, meadow blazingstar, vervain, beggerticks, sunflower, joe-pye weed, yellow-evening primrose and purple aster.

Another hour later, I rounded a butte and looked to the southwest Ė and saw something I rarely see Ė clouds of smoke rising in the air. I quickly called my dad to ask him if he knew anything about it.

Apparently, the prior evening there was a small thunderstorm, and lightening had started a fire.  Crews worked all night to put it out and thought they were successful in the morning Ė only to have the mid-afternoon wind restart it.

I drove to a couple of locations and observed the fire. It was in a rugged area, where native prairie dominated.

It soon crossed a deep ravine, and when it climbed the brush on the south side, the fire roared (supposedly 15 feet high), and thatís when I first thought that this fire could get out of control Ė and it soon did, moving rapidly to the southwest. I understand that it would have been impossible to outrun.

Fire trucks descended upon the scene from Wilton , Washburn, Bismarck and Mandan . There were at least 15 trucks in view at this time. 

The fire entered one of my dadís fields, and roared through some brush in a coulee. However, the leading edge of a fire was stopped near the edge of a coulee where the grass was mostly green. If not for that green area, the fire could have gone on for miles. As it was, the 3,000 acre fire burned only about 10 acres in my dadís field.

During the height of the activity, the Wilton Ambulance showed up, along with the highway patrol, the Burleigh County sheriff, the Red Cross and KXMB-TV. A number of neighbors and sightseers also watched the activity.

In the early evening, fire trucks continued to put out hot spots, and they did the same for much of the night.

The next morning, I hiked the area about 7:00 a.m. , and soon discovered a number of hot spots, including embers areas at the bases of some trees.

My dad and I decided to take the safe route Ė we called the fire department to water those areas, just in case the winds picked up.

Two trucks soon arrived and attended to the hot spots. 

By late morning, it was already getting hot Ė but fortunately, the winds were light and the fire didnít restart.

August 24, 2003


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