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Wildfires consume brush truck north of Williston, scorch 2,000 acres in TRNP's north unit
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Wildfires kept area firefighters busy throughout the region over the weekend, with a fire north of Williston that consumed more than 2,000 acres and another fire in the north unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park that did likewise.

The wildfires moved faster than usual and were bigger than any firefighters could recall from recent memory. The one north of Williston consumed a brush fire truck — firefighters got out just in time — but the truck is a total loss.

Chief of Operations for Williston Fire Department Matthew Clark told the Williston Herald the truck will be replaced as soon as possible.

“Needless to say, we need all the brush apparatus that we currently have due to the conditions in the area,” he said. “So we’re kind of venturing out there trying to figure out some options to replace that unit.”

The burn ban in the county is something everyone needs to take seriously, he added.

“There is no open burning, no fires, no campfires or anything like that for the county itself,” he said. “If they do see any fires or anything, report those fires in so we can get them taken care of before they get out of hand.”

The fire north of Williston appears to have been accidental, Williston Rural Fire John Laqua told the Williston Herald.

“We’re about 90 percent sure it was started by a bird that got electrocuted on a transformer box and fell to the base of the pole.”

Due to dry conditions, however, the fire that resulted spread much faster than usual.

“The fire was exhibiting extreme behavior, due to strong wind and extreme drought conditions,” Laqua said. “Fire breaks were helping but not stopping it like we’d typically see.”

Five homes were potentially at risk during the fire. Containment measures were immediately taken to keep the fire away from them, and none were lost, Laqua said.

No civilians were injured during the fire, and no vehicles other than the brush fire truck were lost. Three or four firefighters did suffer minor injuries during the battle.

“We’re asking people to be careful what they’re doing,” Laqua said. “Follow all the burn bans in place. Check the fire index rating each day. Avoid off-road travel if not necessary.”

Laqua said his department was paged out to the scene at 2:25 p.m. April 3, and did not reach containment until 8:30 p.m. that night.

In addition to Williston Fire Department, other units called for mutual aid included Epping Fire Department, Grenora Fire Department, Ray Fire Department, Alamo Fire department, Wildrose Fire Department, Tioga Rural Fire Department, Williams county Emergency Management, Williams County Sheriff’s Department, City of Williston Police Department, and North Dakota Highway Patrol. Numerous private freshwater trucks also assisted.

Laqua said he has volunteers who are monitoring the grass fire area, and will do so for about a week, to ensure no hotspots or embers can start things back up again.

Theodore Roosevelt Park

The wildfire in the Horse Pasture of the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt Park continues to expand. The fire is estimated at 30 percent containment, with 3,000 acres burned so far.

Rough, inaccessible terrain and high wind have made the blaze difficult to corral, but firefighters from Montana, South Dakota, USDA Forest Service, North Dakota Forest Service, local farmers and other local fire departments are working around the clock to get the wildfire under control.

No structures have been damaged so far, but the North Unit housing facilities, CCC campground, and other infrastructure remain at risk, and the North Unit continues to be closed at this time.

Arnegard Fire Chief Rick Schreiber and his wife Michelle, were among those helping in Theodore Roosevelt Park. He and his wife were both in Wyoming for the Easter break, trying to celebrate both the holiday and their mother’s birthday.

They made the decision to return ahead of schedule, however, as the blaze in Theodore Roosevelt National Park expanded, and were among volunteers responding to the scene of that fire.

The cause of that fire is under investigation. It appears it may have started from a single spark, from a gunshot by people who were out target practicing.

“It is incredibly, incredibly dry,” Schreiber said. “It is no joke out there.”

Variable wind and the dry conditions have kept the fire moving incredibly fast, and enhance the danger of breakout fires. Schreiber said he clocked a fire at 25 miles per hour at points on Sunday, and he could feel the intense heat through the windshield from several feet away.

On that fire, aerial assets are dropping a red “slurry,” a fire retardant dropped ahead of the fire’s path of travel.

“Essentially this stuff, it saturates the ground and the weeds and the trees and the brush,” he explained. “when the fire gets to it it can’t continue to burn.”

Many of the fires in TRP are in deep ravines that are inaccessible.

Karolin Jappe, McKenzie County Emergency Manager, said many fire departments have been on scene, including volunteers from Sidney and Fairview, as well as Alexander, Grassy Butte and Watford City.

“We’re just hoping the winds calm down down,” she said. “the wind is just nasty. That is the worst part of the whole day.”

Jappe has been coordinating donations to the scene. She can be reached at 701-580-6936 if you would like to arrange a donation.


Updated

Williston was host to several Easter activities this weekend, including the Community Egg Hunt at Spring Lake Park, and the Hippity Paw-Pity E…


Business
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Candy Crate, Benelli's to move into Rootz building this summer
  • Updated

Two newly-opened businesses are on the move, partnering up to expand and grow their shops even further.

The Pick and Patch/Candy Crate and Benelli’s Boutique just recently opened their doors inside the Ebel Building in Williston, but business has boomed so well for them that they’re now expanding into larger spaces in the coming months. Owners Martie Abell and Nicole McKechnie said the move wasn’t what they expected so soon after opening, but that the time felt right.

“Mainly, I was running out of space!” Abell told the Williston Herald. “Things were getting stacked on top of each other and people couldn’t see what we had.”

The two stores are moving into an existing business, taking over the current seating area at Rootz, located at 910 42nd street west. Abell said the area will be walled off, creating space for both her business and Benelli’s. While Candy Crate and Benelli’s are sharing space with another business, Abell said the move will actually create larger shops for both of them.

“It’s a little something you don’t usually see, two businesses going into one space, but it worked out!” Abell said. “It gives a chance to sell a larger variety of products, as well.”

Abell’s Candy Crate will be bringing in a larger variety of candy, she explained, with a selection of bulk candy to choose from, as well as the already offered fresh cotton candy, Hammond’s candies and Candy Club selections. With Abell selling apparel and items, a partnership with McKechnie seemed a perfect fit, as Benelli’s offers a large selection of custom items, many made my McKechnie herself. With her brand’s popularity, she said, she was facing challenges in bringing in the products patrons wanted while working with the space she has.

“I already have so much stuff, but people were wanting more and I couldn’t provide it to them because of my limited space,” McKechnie explained. “I’m excited to be able to offer a different boutique to Williston, with unique items. It’s a lot of custom work, it’s not your typical boutique.”

McKechnie said along with her expanded products, she will also be offering on-the-spot custom printing, so customers can create a truly individual piece of apparel on demand.

The Pick and Patch/Candy Crate and Benelli’s Boutique will be closing their doors sometime in May, and re-opening in their new locations on June 8. Stay up-to-date on the latest by following the Pick and Patch/Candy Crate at www.facebook.com/ThePickandPatch and Benelli’s at Benellisboutique.com or www.facebook.com/benellisboutique.


Regional
featured
WSC continues search for new president with candidate forums this week
  • Updated

Williston State College is taking the next step in its search for Dr. John Miller this week.

Five candidates have been selected for this stage of the process from a larger pool of 29 applicants. They were selected after a virtual interview in mid-March of a select number of qualified applicants.

The five candidates chosen have been invited to visit the Williston Community this week, and each will be introduced at candidate forums that start on Tuesday and continue through Thursday.

The general public is invited to attend the forums, as well as various members of stakeholder groups, who have been asked to provide feedback on each candidate to the Presidential Committee.

This feedback will help the committee narrow the field from five to at least three names, which will then be sent on to the State Board of Higher Education for further review. That body will conduct final interviews with the selected three candidates on the WSC campus Thursday, April 29.

“The WSC Presidential Search is in high gear this week and I hope we can encourage as many people as possible to join and attend the community forums that are being held,” Kathy Neset, co-chair for the search committee, told the Williston Herald. “We had vast interest in the WSC presidency, and we’re very excited to bring these talented leaders to the Williston community and provide them an opportunity to interact with our people and spend time on campus.”

Neset’s co-chair is Kim Wray, WSC vice president for academic affairs and instruction.

Candidate forum dates

All forums will be held on the WSC campus in the Teton Lounge as follows:

Candidate 1: Tuesday, April 6, 2021 from 4:30 – 5:30 pm

Candidate 2: Wednesday, April 7, 2021 from 10:15 -11:15 am

Candidate 3: Wednesday, April 7, 2021 from 4:30 – 5:30 pm

Candidate 4: Thursday, April 8, 2021 from 10:15 -11:15 am

Candidate 5: Thursday, April 8, 2021 from 4:30 – 5:30 pm


Regional
U.S. 85, U.S. 2 now open
  • Updated

Two sections of highway temporarily closed due to grass fires have been reopened.

U.S. Highway 2from Williston to 13-mile Corner, and U.S. 85 from Watford City to the Junction of North Dakota Highway 200 were both temporarily closed over the weekend due to grass fires. Both highways are now open.

For more information on road conditions throughout North Dakota, call 511 or visit the ND Roads map at travel.dot.nd.gov


Regional
North Dakota has millions in unclaimed tax refunds
  • Updated

North Dakota has an estimated 3,600 taxpayers owed a collective $3.779 million from 2017 tax returns. The median refund for North Dakotans is $958.

Nationwide, the IRS has a total of $1.3 billion in unclaimed tax refunds from 2017. The midpoint of those refunds is $865, meaning half of refunds are more than that and half are less.

If you didn’t file a tax return in 2017, one of those taxpayers with an unclaimed refund could be you — but you only have until May 17 to claim the funds.

“The IRS wants to help taxpayers who are due refunds but haven’t filed their 2017 tax returns yet,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “Time is quickly running out for these taxpayers. There’s only a three-year window to claim these refunds, and the window closes on May 17. We want to help people get these refunds, but they will need to quickly file a 2017 tax return.”

The IRS reminds taxpayers seeking a 2017 tax refund that their checks may be held if they have not filed tax returns for 2018 and 2019. In addition, the refund will be applied to any amounts still owed to the IRS or a state tax agency and may be used to offset unpaid child support or past due federal debts, such as student loans.

By failing to file a tax return, people stand to lose more than just their refund of taxes withheld or paid during 2017. Many low- and moderate-income workers may be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). For 2017, the credit was worth as much as $6,318. The EITC helps individuals and families whose incomes are below certain thresholds. The thresholds for 2017 were:

• $48,340 ($53,930 if married filing jointly) for those with three or more qualifying children;

• $45,007 ($50,597 if married filing jointly) for people with two qualifying children;

• $39,617 ($45,207 if married filing jointly) for those with one qualifying child, and;

• $15,010 ($20,600 if married filing jointly) for people without qualifying children.

Current and prior year tax forms (such as the tax year 2017 Form 1040, 1040A and 1040EZ) and instructions are available on the IRS.gov Forms and Publications page or by calling toll-free 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

Taxpayers who are missing Forms W-2, 1098, 1099 or 5498 for the years 2017, 2018 or 2019 should request copies from their employer, bank or other payer. Taxpayers who are unable to get missing forms from their employer or other payer can order a free wage and income transcript at IRS.gov using the Get Transcript Online tool. Alternatively, they can file Form 4506-T to request a wage and income transcript. A wage and income transcript shows data from information returns received by the IRS, such as Forms W-2, 1099, 1098, Form 5498 and IRA contribution information. Taxpayers can use the information from the transcript to file their tax return.

First-time filers and EIP eligible

The IRS reminds first-time filers and those who usually don’t have a federal filing requirement that they must file a 2020 tax return to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit (RRC), if they were eligible but did not receive the first or second Economic Impact Payment (EIP), or received less than the full amounts. The IRS offers free options to prepare and file a return at How to File on IRS.gov. Taxpayers who received the full amounts of both EIPs cannot claim the RRC and should not include any information about the payments on their 2020 tax return.


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