There are many reasons why oilfield accidents occur. Sometimes, gas flares
set off fires in the Bakken region. On April 14, just such a fire happened
at a Whiting Petroleum well north of Keene, North Dakota, according to the
Largest Since 1999
Before firefighters could extinguish the grass fire, over 3,000 acres had
burned, along with miles of fence line. This was the largest such fire
since the so-called Halloween Fire of 1999, when a grass fire moved from
near Sydney, MT, to Watford City, ND in less than a day. Although no injuries
occurred and no buildings burned in this particular fire, it did rapidly
move west-northwest from its point of origin to the outskirts of the Tobacco
Gardens Resort on Lake Sakakawea. The resort accommodates campers, and
it rents out cabins as well.
Forest Service Official Comments
In the aftermath of the incident, an assistant fire manager for the U.S.
Forest Service said that gas flares were an ongoing concern, and that
they caused their share of fires. This federal official said that Whiting
Petroleum had complied with flare-to-vegetation setback requirements,
but strong winds during a red flag warning still caused this
oil field accident.
Company Takes Steps to Help
The oil company subsequently sent crews out to repair fence lines, and
it agreed to offer ranchers alternative pasture lands should the fire
result in a shortage of grazing areas this season. Three ranchers in particular
are expecting the fire to impact their spring grazing season. Whiting
Petroleum also agreed to reimburse local fire departments for the costs
incurred in putting out the blaze.
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