- Associated Press - Thursday, April 2, 2015

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - Gov. Jack Dalrymple has declared a fire emergency as wildfires continue to flare up around North Dakota.

Dry conditions, unseasonably high temperatures and strong winds have led to several grass fires this week. The National Weather Service has issued red flag warnings for the entire southern portion of the state to alert residents that conditions are ideal for wildfires.

Fifteen counties and the Standing Rock Indian Reservation have restricted open burning, and the state Game and Fish Department has banned burning including campfires on the 25-square-mile Oahe Wildlife Management Area along the Missouri River south of Bismarck-Mandan.

Dalrymple’s order also includes a burn ban for areas classified in the fire danger rating system as high, very high, or extreme, as well as for red flag areas. Burning will be allowed in areas rated low or moderate fire danger, if approved by local authorities.

Dalrymple also activated the state’s emergency operations plan and has authorized the use of National Guard resources if necessary.

“In many areas of the state, the weather conditions have created a serious fire threat,” he said in a statement. “I have directed state agencies to be at the ready if their assistance is needed, so we can help local and tribal officials in their efforts to save lives and protect property.”

No injuries have been reported in any of the fires, but some have come dangerously close to homes. A fire Wednesday near Zap that authorities said might have been caused by a carelessly tossed cigarette came within a few hundred yards of a farm home.

Homeowner Rosella Sayler told The Bismarck Tribune that she was worried for herself and also the volunteer firefighters who responded.

“I feel sorry for them. It’s got to be a lot of stress,” she said.

Ninety-six percent of the firefighters in the state are volunteers, according to the North Dakota Firefighters Association.

“This part of the country we help one another,” Mike Gartner, a volunteer with the Mandan Rural Fire Department for 40 years, told KXMB-TV.

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