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Hankinson grass fire: Firefighters, volunteers save home from flames

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HANKINSON, N.D.—A grass fire near Hankinson, was still burning as of Thursday evening.

Around 2:30 on Wednesday afternoon Donald Buckhaus picked up a familiar, but alarming, odor in the air.

"I was about a mile, a couple of miles way up at my son's house and I could smell smoke," said Donald Buckhaus, Homeowner.

His eyes then caught up to his nose, and he noticed a large fire spreading across pastures, near his own home.

"I called the fire department, and she said,'is your house in danger?' And, I said, I don't think so, it's a couple of miles away. But in a half hour, it was at the back door," said Buckhaus.

At the same time, Donald's daughter and wife were on their way home from Sisseton, when they too saw the flames.

"We were like oh, that's so far away, but when we got to the house it was pretty close. And then, he called and he says that the fire department was out there with him already," said Lisa Buckhaus, Donald's daughter.

That fire came about 20 feet away from the Buckhaus' home.

At this time, they were told they had to evacuate.

Lisa says she took care of what she thought was most important first.

"The cows, (they both laugh) we got those out of the barn as they were trying to push it back and keep it away from the barn for us. And then, I guess we just grabbed pictures and the computer with all of our information on it," said Lisa Buckhaus.

Donald watched as seven fire departments battled the blaze.

His son Richard along with many farmers in the area jumped in their tractors and helped crews create a barrier.

"By his son having a tractor, that was huge. By disking up, that helped firefighters as they wet things down and cooled areas, that made a big factor," said Brett Lambrecht, Richland County Emergency Management.

Because of volunteers and firefighters, the Buckhaus' did not have to evacuate after all.

"It was dark out already when we finally realized it wasn't going to get to the house," said Donald Buckhaus.

The family says they were thankful, but they didn't get much sleep last night.

"Kind of slept, not really good, kind of looked out the window every time we woke up," said Donald Buckhaus.

Most of all, the family says they're grateful for those neighbors and friends that jumped into action.

"Having those resources at the drop of a hat is what saved probably this property," said Lambrecht.

Crews estimate about 800 acres burned in the grass fire.

A few miles down the road from Hankinson, fire crews in Breckenridge battled a blaze at SunOpta, where a bucket elevator and bin caught fire.

Area firefighters went to the sunflower seed plant at about 4 p.m. Wednesday, and stayed until the fire was put out around 8 p.m.

Crews working on the fire had to move about 20,000 pounds of sunflower seeds from the engulfed bin to stop it from spreading.

Wahpeton and Dwight fire departments also pitched in to help.

Investigators do not yet know the cause of the fire.

Nobody was injured.

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