North Dakota Firefighter in Critical Condition

April 23, 2008
The firefighter suffered burns to the face and other extremities.

Columbus volunteer fire fighter Mitchell Strom, 28, remained in critical condition Tuesday morning at the Regions Burn Unit in Bloomington Minn.

Strom was injured in a fire-related accident Saturday while battling a large grass fire south of Columbus, according to Columbus fire chief Scott Kihle.

"He was transported to the Kenmare Community Hospital by a personal vehicle, then transferred to Trinity Hospital in Minot, and then airlifted to the St. Paul Regions Burn Center," said Kihle.

Strom suffered burns to the face and other extremities, according to a news release from the Burke County Sheriff's office.

"We have estimated the damage to be between 1,200 and 1,500 acres," said Kihle. "The fire occurred about eight and a half miles south of Columbus and called upon the help of six different fire departments."

Departments that participated in the rescue with the Columbus Fire Mutual aid was requested and departments that aided in response were Noonan, Lignite, Powers Lake, Portal, and Bowbells.

"Three buildings in total were destroyed by the fire, including a stall garage and barn located on the premises," said Kihle.

He also said that it was an unusually large fire for the area.

"This is the biggest fire that I can remember our department getting involved in," said Kihle. "It's the largest one we have had."

The Columbus fire was ignited by the use of an acetylene torch which was being used to cut sections of a swather down so it could be loaded onto a trailer.

Others who assisted in combating the fire were Powers Fuels, Sun Prairie Grain, Burke County Sheriff Department, North Dakota Highway Patrol, Bowbells and Powers Lake Ambulance Service, in addition to local area farmers and citizens.

The three structures that were destroyed by the fire were owned by Berniece Benson of Columbus.

According to the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services, 33 counties from the central to the west part of the state are currently under a burn ban including Burke, Williams and Divide.

A fine will be assigned to anyone who violates this ban on "open burning," which includes the burning of any type of combustible material directly into the open air, any outdoor fire, pyrotechnic or flame producing apparatus that has the potential to emit sparks or airborne embers, campfires, charcoal grills or barbecue pit fires, fireworks, garbage pit fires, prescribed burns, outdoor welding operations, or burning chemically treated or industrial materials that cannot be easily extinguished.

Republished with permission of The Williston Herald.

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