BISMARCK — More than 3,000 acres of Badlands in Theodore Roosevelt National Park have burned in a wildfire likely caused by human influence, according to the North Dakota Forest Service. This blaze started just days after another fire threatened the city of Medora.

The fire in the national park's North Unit is 30% contained and continues to spread. Responders were sent to the scene on Easter Sunday when it was estimated to have burned 1,000 acres. High winds likely caused the fire to spread and triple to more than 3,000 acres, said Beth Hill, spokesperson for the North Dakota Forest Service.

"This fire is going on in really rough, inaccessible terrain, and so that has made fire suppression difficult," Hill said in an interview with The Forum. "But all responders are working very diligently to contain the blaze."

Two air tankers from South Dakota were called in to help control the wildfire that is continuing to spread, according to the North Dakota Forest Service.

The North Unit of the park and the CCC Campground south of the park are closed due to the wildfire. No structural damage has occurred so far, but some of the North Unit's housing facilities and other infrastructure within the park is at risk, Hill said.

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Provided by Badlands Search and Rescue Service.
Provided by Badlands Search and Rescue Service.

The blaze was likely caused by humans, but the exact cause of the wildfire is currently unknown, she said.

South of the fire in the North Unit, responders have successfully contained a fire that sparked near Medora on the afternoon of Thursday, April 1. Residents and business owners in the small town were evacuated, and the fire is thought to have started from a downed power line.

Responders were able to contain the blaze with help from outsiders, including fire departments from Montana and South Dakota, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service and locals.

Firefighters are reporting 85% containment on a wildfire that began on Thursday and destroyed 2,276 acres surrounding Medora.  (Photo courtesy of Civil Air Patrol's Roughrider Composite Squadron)
Firefighters are reporting 85% containment on a wildfire that began on Thursday and destroyed 2,276 acres surrounding Medora.  (Photo courtesy of Civil Air Patrol's Roughrider Composite Squadron)

North Dakota is experiencing one of the worst droughts in recent memory. Gov. Doug Burgum announced last week that the state is in a fire emergency, and almost half of the state is in an "extreme drought," according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Hill said that because North Dakota received very little snowfall in the winter months, the prairie grass in the state is extremely dry and easily catches fire.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Michelle Griffith, a Report for America corps member, at mgriffith@forumcomm.com.