Major North Dakota Summer Wildfire Costs Put at Around $622,000

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) -- Three major North Dakota wildfires over the summer cost $622,000 to put out, the Forest Service says.

All three fires had human origins _ a spark from farm machinery, a camp fire and an oil site. Jim Wickel, a planning officer for the Forest Service, said it will be several months before regional agency officials in Missoula, Mont., decide whether to bill people for the costs.

The largest blaze, known as the Deep Creek Fire, burned 3,900 acres, including rare ponderosa pine trees near Amidon, in southwestern North Dakota. The Forest Service said the bill for fighting the blaze totaled about $345,000, including $31,000 to bring in a retardant dropped by tanker plane and a helicopter water bucket.

The two other summer fires were known as the Whitetail and the Magpie, northwest of Fairfield. The Whitetail covered 500 acres and cost $142,000 to suppress. The Magpie covered 1,900 acres and cost $135,000 to suppress, the Forest Service said.

The Forest Service still plans to do a prescribed burn in part of the 6,000-acre ponderosa forest to help prevent fire damage in the future.

Jeffrey Adams, the environmental coordinator for the agency, said the paperwork should be finished soon to plan a prescribed burn on about 600 acres of the ponderosa pines near Amidon next October, if weather permits.

Dry conditions had postponed a prescribed fire in the ponderosas over the past two seasons. Such burns reduce the number of small trees that act as fire ladders to taller trees, Adams said.

``The wildfire was a good indication that we need to do some management of the pines,'' he said. ``It's a unique area. We'd like to have it around for people to go into.''