A large wildfire is burning south of Grassy Butte, officials said Sunday.

The fire, named “Magpie Fire,” is was estimated at 3,500 acres Sunday afternoon and extends northward from Magpie campground into McKenzie County in a U.S. Forest Service-inventoried roadless area, according to release from the Forest Service.

Treva Slaughter, public affairs officer with the Forest Service, said the blaze is about 10 percent contained as of 2:45 p.m. Mountain time.

“The terrain close to the fire is extremely difficult to access so the fire crews have created an indirect line around the fire to help hold the fire,” Slaughter said in an email to the Press. “This also gives firefighters a place that allows for management of the fire from the line.”

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The Dakota Prairie Grasslands received a report of smoke in the area of Magpie campground around 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 8, the USFS said in a release Sunday. Magpie campground is located on the Medora Ranger District of the Dakota Prairie Grassland and is about 55 miles north of Medora.  

The Forest Service assistant fire management officer then notified Billings County Emergency Management Services and dispatched a USFS engine and three support personnel to the area alongside the initial Billings County Volunteer Fire Department response.

Once on scene, the crews discovered an active fire in progress.  


In addition to Forest Service firefighting personnel, firefighters from the Billings and McKenzie County volunteer fire departments, the National Park Service, North Dakota State Forest Service and a Type 2 initial attack crew from Minnesota are on the scene. Many other departments from around the area have also responded to the blaze.

Slaughter said the Forest Service is working with Billings and McKenzie County to prepare burn-out areas that will reinforce the indirect line that is in place. The Forest Service also has an active request to bring in an external team from out of state to bolster its resources and assist in managing the fire.

The Maah Daah Hey Trail system will be closed from Bennett campground, located in the McKenzie Ranger District, to the Elkhorn campground, located in the Medora Ranger District. The closure will include access to the Maah Daah Hey Trail from the Bennett Trail. Also closed to public use is the White Tail day-use campground and Magpie campground.  

Officials ask all members of the public to stay clear of the closed areas until further notice. They also warned against using drones over the area, stating that they threaten the safety of firefighters and the effectiveness of wildfire management operations when flown over or near wildfires.