Fire Set Off By Gas Flares Results Results In Oil Field Accident

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 Bismarck Tribune.

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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