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Wind driven fire causes Cannon Ball to evacuate

The town of Cannon Ball – on the Standing Rock Reservation – was evacuated late Sunday afternoon when a fire driven by high winds threatened the town.

The Red Cross says 350 people left their homes due to the fire danger.  The state Division of Emergency Management says two homes and a church were destroyed, and other homes were damaged.

The Standing Rock tribal government is taking care of lodging and meal expenses at the Prairie Knights Casino.

"The winds are really tough," state emergency manager Greg Wilz told KFGO. "The National Weather Service had given us quite a bit of warning that these were coming."

Wilz called it a pretty tough day.

"It's pretty rare that we were caught off-guard, but this is one of those times we were caught off-guard a little bit," Brian Shawn of the American Red Cross told Prairie Public. "We didn't expect the wildfires to necessarily pop up."

But Shawn says when North Dakota sees 80 degrees or more in October, conditions ripened very quickly.

"Fortunately, everybody's OK," said Shawn. "That's the most important thing."

The National Weather Service had issued high wind warnings for virtually the entire state.

"Winds were reported as high as 75 miles an hour," said meteorologist Adam Jones at the National Weather Service in Bismarck. "We had widespread reports of 60 to 65 and 70 miles an hour winds across the entire area."

Jones says the wind, coupled with well above average temperatures, heightened the fire danger.

"At one point in time, we counted at least 20 active fires across the state," said Jones.

A wildfire shut down Interstate 29 in Richland County for about an hour. And a farmhouse in Stutsman County was destroyed by fire.

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