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By Caroline Downs
Hot oil spewing from a car on an eastbound Canadian Pacific Railway train sparked a fire on the north side of the tracks between Donnybrook and Carpio Thursday afternoon.
The Carpio Fire Department responded to the scene, followed by members of the Donnybrook, Kenmare and Berthold departments. According to Chuck Leet, secretary-treasurer of the Kenmare Fire Department, the call came about 12:15 pm. “It was Carpio’s fire, but we got the request to go for mutual aid,” Leet said. “Then the Carpio department had to leave the scene of the grass fire to go deal with a house fire north of Carpio.”
About four miles of pasture and railroad ditch burned, mostly confined in the area between the railroad tracks and the Des Lacs River. The fire, which was pushed by winds gusting in excess of 30-40 mph at times, came within a quarter mile of the Donnybrook Community Center and gym at the southeast edge of town. Trucks and firefighters from Kenmare and Donnybrook were stationed there to prevent problems with flames reaching any buildings.
According to Leet, two quick response trucks, the pumper, the tanker and the Humvee were on the scene from the Kenmare Fire Department, along with a dozen firefighters.
Herb Schwede, secretary-treasurer of the Donnybrook Fire Department, reported three units from that department responded, along with an estimated 20 volunteers.
The fire’s primary fuel source was dried grass accumulated for several years near the railroad tracks. “There was a dense buildup of dead grass along the tracks,” said Leet. “Some of that hasn’t been burned or cleaned out for years, and the firefighters reported intense heat coming off the fire there.”
“With the wind like that, it burned pretty fast,” said Schwede. He added that Central Dispatch stopped the train involved in the burn at Carpio.
“It would have started more fires,” Leet said. “It was like a rolling drip torch.”
Firefighters managed to contain the fire between 3:30 and 4 pm, with members of the Donnybrook department also monitoring the blaze from the opposite side of the river to extinguish any sparks starting fires there. No buildings were damaged and no injuries reported.
Leet, who was handling radio traffic and dispatch calls during the fire, said emergency service departments throughout the region were busy that afternoon. Fires were reported in the Lansford, Columbus, Portal and Lake Metigoshe areas, with a vehicle accident near Bowbells and the house fire north of Carpio. “There was so much action going on, it was unreal,” he said.
No outdoor burning
Dry and windy conditions, along with a buildup of dead grasses and other plant material, continue to favor higher fire danger in the area. Burning bans have not been issued for Ward County at this time, but caution should be exercised by anyone planning to burn, whether to clean ditches or start a campfire.
The northwest region received light rain and snow showers Friday night and Saturday, but Leet estimated that moisture had probably evaporated in the strong winds noted across the area Saturday through Monday. “We highly recommend that nobody do any burning at this point,” he said, “whether in town or out of town. Common sense tells you this is volatile right now.”
Schwede agreed and added that Donnybrook area residents appeared to be using common sense and waiting for more favorable conditions to do any burning.
“Contrary to what most people think, firefighters don’t like going on fires anymore than anyone likes having a fire,” Leet said.