A large fire broke out in the wee hours this morning – it was reported at about 1:00am per Morton County – and required the use of helicopters to extinguish.
“Mandan Rural Fire responded to the fire. However, due to the terrain, Mandan Rural was unable to access the fire,” a Morton County press release states. “At around 8:45 a.m. aviators with the 1st Battalion, 112th Aviation Regiment (Security and Support), flew two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters with 600-gallon water buckets to the affected area south of Mandan.”
Apparently the fire is now extinguished with no damage to any structures.
As for the location of the fire, it was west of the Backwater Bridge, and west of Highway 1806, where #NoDAPL protesters set numerous fires earlier this week during a riot where they clashed with law enforcement. The bridge, in fact, remains closed due to the fires set by protesters.
Per National Guard leadership, there was a real threat that this fire could have become a much larger problem:
“Public safety is paramount and with the chance of high winds today we needed completely extinguish the fire to prevent damage to property and injury to those in the area.” Maj. Gen. Alan Dohrmann, North Dakota National Guard adjutant general, said in the release.
UPDATE: Some #NoDAPL protesters blame outside “agitators.”
Myron Dewey, an independent filmmaker at the camp, said on his Facebook page people he observed two people in a white Honda leaving the area. Dewey, who said he has experience working for hotshot fire crews, said the fire appeared to be started by a drip torch.
Speculation about who started the fire is running wild in the camp Sunday, some saying it was started by outside “agitators.”
But others among the protesters acknowledge the existence of extremist elements and are trying to expel them:
Campers were told by the elders to “get a grip” on the destructive activity criminal activity, including the burning of vehicles on the bridge, Archambault said. With the Seven Council Fires assembled at the camp, believed to the first time in more than a century, he said “we are not condoning anything like that.”
“We are trying to get a hold of the radicals and get them dismissed,” Archambault said.
I’ll believe it when I see it.
Here are some more photos courtesy of Morton County (click for a larger view):
Here’s the full press release: