JAMESTOWN, N.D. -- Grass fires have been rare problems for hunters and outdoorsmen in past years, according to Brian Paulson, chief of the Jamestown Rural Fire Department.
"Never been a big issue," he said. "Usually there is snow or wet conditions by that time of year."
This year, dry conditions have increased the potential for grass fires, Paulson said. There is also the potential for grass fires even in situations where there is moisture present. Hunters are more likely to encounter high fire danger conditions during early fall hunting activities such as upland game than in later hunting seasons such as the deer gun season.
The fire danger indexes are based on the grassland fuel moisture, forecasted temperature, humidity and wind speed and are determined by the U.S. Forest Service and National Weather Service.
Mark Pollert, game warden supervisor for North Dakota Game and Fish Department in Jamestown, said people should always be aware of the potential of fires.
"People need to monitor the daily fire danger for the locality they are hunting," he said. "They should follow the suggestions and regulations that go along with the fire dangers in the area."
- The North Dakota Game and Fish Department website provides information on the daily fire dangers at https://gf.nd.gov/fdi. The page includes maps showing the relative fire dangers and some helpful tips for preventing and fighting a fire if one is encountered.
- In Minnesota, similar information is available from the Department of Natural Resources at https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/forestry/fire/firerating_restrictions.html.
Outdoorsmen should also be prepared to fight a fire.
"Keep some simple items like shovels and some cans of water in the vehicle," Pollert said.
There are several ways a fire can start from hunting activity although one of the most common is a hot exhaust system coming in contact with dry grass.
"It happens," Pollert said. "Hunters usually do a good job of staying out of areas where fires can start."
Under extreme fire danger ratings, off-road recreational travel could be limited or prohibited by proclamation from the state of North Dakota, according to the Game and Fish Department website.
Other possible ways a fire can start are from a spark generated when a bullet ricochets off a rock or from the sparks generated when firing a black powder weapon although that is not often a problem, Pollert said. In either situation, the outdoorsman should monitor the area until he or she is sure that no spark remains smoldering.
Smoking materials such as tobacco can also ignite a fire. No one should ever dispose of a cigarette butt by throwing it out of a window.
"Black powder hunters probably realize they have a little more chance of throwing a spark," Pollert said. "Stick around for a bit and make sure nothing is starting to burn."
Officials also recommend hunters and other outdoorsmen notify authorities of any fires they encounter in the field.
"Hunters have a responsibility to report things that could be a problem to the authorities," Pollert said.
Overall, fire problems caused by hunters are not common, Paulson said.
Pollert credits the efforts of hunters in preventing fires during the fall hunting seasons.
"Far and away, hunters and outdoorsmen are more attune to keeping an eye out for things that can start a fire," he said. "Avoiding a fire is the best way to stay safe in the field."