The operator of an oil well pad where a fire has been burning since last week in McKenzie County has brought in a specialized emergency response crew to get a handle on the blaze.
The well pad is located on federal land just south of Lake Sakakawea northeast of Watford City.
Its operator, Petro-Hunt, is working with Texas-based Wild Well Control.
“They can come in and know how to analyze or diagnose the problem and get to it,” said Dave Glatt, director of the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality.
McKenzie County Emergency Manager Karolin Jappe said authorities have closed roads in the area and are asking people to avoid driving or boating near the fire, the Bismarck Tribune reported.
The cause of the fire, which broke out on July 22, is unknown. Clouds of black smoke are rising from the blaze, causing state environmental officials to encourage nearby residents to monitor their local air quality at www.airnow.gov. Air quality is already poor in parts of North Dakota because of wildfire smoke from the western U.S. and Canada.
Petro-Hunt initially reported to the state that an estimated 100 barrels of oil and 100 barrels of saltwater spilled at the site.
The true volume of the spills is not yet known, Glatt said.
“We always look at those (estimates) with a wary eye,” he said. “We don’t take those verbatim until we can get the site under control. I fully expect those numbers will change.”
The fire is contained to the well pad, and it has not resulted in any injuries, according to Petro-Hunt.
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