Burgum declares statewide disaster as dry conditions worsen

April 9, 2021 GMT

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Gov. Doug Burgum has declared a statewide drought disaster as extremely dry conditions continue to spread in North Dakota.

Drought conditions now encompass nearly three-fourths of the state, up from about half just a week ago.

Burgum’s order says the state is experiencing the worst drought since 2000. The declaration activates a coordinated emergency operations plan involving several state agencies, including the North Dakota National Guard, that stand ready to assist local and tribal officials.

“For the second time in five years, North Dakota ranchers are facing widespread, extreme drought conditions that threaten their herds and livelihoods,” Burgum said in a statement.

Meanwhile, wildfires including two large ones in the western Badlands have scorched nearly 53 square miles of land across the state this spring, the Bismarck Tribune reported.

Overall, documented wildfires in North Dakota increased over the past week from 139 to 194, according to Beth Hill, acting outreach and education manager for the North Dakota Forest Service.

The wildfire in the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park continues to burn in rugged terrain. It was considered 65% contained on Thursday, up from 50% on Wednesday, according to Hill.

The fire had not spread outside of an 8-square-mile (20.7 square kilometers) area in which fire crews have contained it.