1. Wildfire haze returns, bringing smoky smell and unhealthy air to region

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has issued an Air Quality Alert for fine particle pollution for much of Minnesota, including the Fargo-Moorhead area, which will be in effect through 3 p.m. Friday.

According to the alert, air quality in some places was expected to reach unhealthy levels for sensitive members of the public as well as the general public.

Read more from The Forum's Dave Olson

2. Wildland Fire Task Force established in North Dakota

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A helicopter lifting hundreds of gallons of water to help extinguish a wildfire as the sun sets in Medora, North Dakota. (Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press)
A helicopter lifting hundreds of gallons of water to help extinguish a wildfire as the sun sets in Medora, North Dakota. (Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press)

As persistent and abnormally hot and dry conditions provided ample fuels for an active wildfire season, the North Dakota Forest Service and North Dakota Department of Emergency Services recently initiated a program aimed at augmenting the state’s firefighting capabilities and resources.

According to data collected by the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services and North Dakota Forest Service, nearly 1,700 fires have scorched more than 112,000 acres across the state since January 2021. That total, which is the equivalent of about 170 square miles, is compiled through reports from local emergency managers and 9-1-1 calls, as well as historical data from the Integrated Reporting of Wildland-Fire Information (IRWIN) system used by fire departments.

Read more from Forum News Service's James Miller

3. Minnesota to offer $100 for getting COVID-19 vaccines starting Friday

Nurse Eon Walk administers the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a mobile vaccine clinic hosted by Mothers in Action and operated by the Los Angeles County of Public Health on July 16, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)
Nurse Eon Walk administers the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a mobile vaccine clinic hosted by Mothers in Action and operated by the Los Angeles County of Public Health on July 16, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)

Gov. Tim Walz said the state would follow President Joe Biden's lead and offer gift cards to those who received a dose of the immunization.

Minnesota on Friday, July 30, is set to start paying people $100 to get vaccinated against COVID-19, Gov. Tim Walz said.

Walz in a Thursday, July 29, news release said the state would follow President Joe Biden's guidance and dole out Visa gift cards to Minnesotans 12 and older that got their first dose before Aug. 15. The initial $2.5 million for the incentive program would come from federal COVID-19 relief funding, and additional funding would require approval from the state Legislature or private donations or grants.

Read more from Forum News Service's Dana Ferguson

4. North Dakota cyclists will be allowed to ride through stop signs

The now-closed Fargo Moorhead Community Bicycle Workshop on NP Avenue in downtown Fargo, seen June 17, 2016. David Samson / The Forum
The now-closed Fargo Moorhead Community Bicycle Workshop on NP Avenue in downtown Fargo, seen June 17, 2016. David Samson / The Forum

Beginning Sunday, Aug. 1, North Dakota cyclists will be able to legally roll through stop signs under one of a handful of new biker-friendly laws aimed at promoting bicycle safety.

In addition to allowing bikers to treat stop signs as yields in most circumstances, the trio of new laws mean the increasingly popular e-bikes will no longer be treated like motorized vehicles, and the state will have its first "safe passing" law to mandate a cushion between cars and bikes on the road.

Read more from The Forum's Adam Willis

5. In 1932, FBI agents uncovered a 'mammoth' moonshine operation in North Dakota, but who was the mastermind behind it all?

During the days of prohibition, millions of gallons of illegal alcohol were dumped out in an effort to stop the production and distribution of the product. Jamestown, N.D was the site of one of the biggest illegal operations in the nation. Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons.
During the days of prohibition, millions of gallons of illegal alcohol were dumped out in an effort to stop the production and distribution of the product. Jamestown, N.D was the site of one of the biggest illegal operations in the nation. Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons.

By all accounts, Oscar J. Seiler was a pillar of the Jamestown community at the turn of the 20th century. Not only was he the city attorney, he was a man about town. He helped organize and run community events, including something called “The Midwinter Picnics,” which attracted thousands of people to socialize and celebrate, even in the darkest days of winter.

In 1922, perhaps because of his enthusiasm and vision, he was heavily recruited to become governor, as the sitting governor considered filling an empty U.S. Senate seat. Seiler was an impressive man. However, just 10 years later, he was at the heart of one of the biggest scandals of the Prohibition era. FBI agents found one of the largest illegal alcohol operations in the nation on his farm.

Read more from The Forum's Tracy Briggs