Guard Flare Ignites Grass Fire in North Dakota

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) -- A flare fired by North Dakota National Guard soldiers sparked a grass fire that scorched more than 640 acres southeast of here on Sunday.

Bismarck Rural Fire Chief Keith Sailer said the blaze was nearly impossible to fight. He said Missouri River backwater blocked direct routes, and firefighters who found alternate approaches had their vehicles bogged down in mud.

Trees and brush also created roadblocks for firefighters, he said.

''We can't get to the most important part,'' firefighter Reed Overson said. ''It won't be contained until we can get access.''

Sailer said no injuries were reported and no structures were immediately threatened.

The Guard reported the fire when the flare ignited the blaze, shortly after noon, Sailer said. About nine rural departments and 19 firefighters were on scene Sunday afternoon, he said.

The National Weather Service reported wind gusts of up to 33 mph. Sailer said firefighters hoped the strong winds would drive the fire to the Missouri.

The fire created a thick blanket of smoke over the area, attracting several onlookers along state Highway 1804.

Sailer said firefighters would be likely be on scene most of the night, ''unless the wind stops completely.''

Information from: Bismarck Tribune