October 1, 2014

Heineman pledges state support to help battle wildfire

Gov. Dave Heineman pledges that the state will do what it can to help battle a wildfire in north-central Nebraska that has already burned through 50,000 acres.

The Fairfield Creek fire began Friday morning when a lightning strike sparked four fires in Dawes County. Two fires began shortly thereafter in Grant County. Approximately 300 firefighters from 35 western Nebraska fire departments have responded.

Heineman activated the National Guard, which deployed three UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters equipped with buckets to draw water from the Cub Creek Recreation Area. Heineman says he understands few of the Guard members have been trained as firefighters.

“Maybe they can do some other things to alleviate the other challenges the firefighters face so they can put all their attention on that,” Heineman tells Nebraska Radio Affiliate KBRB [Link to KBRB interiveiw, click on "News" tab].

“We‘ve already declared a state of emergency. We did that a couple of weeks ago so we wouldn’t have to do it at the moment it occurred. So, we were ready to deploy National Guard assets, Nebraska Emergency Management assets on a moment’s notice.”

Heineman says he was impressed with the dedication of the firefighters he met in Ainsworth, Long Pine and Norden.

“We’re very much aware of the circumstances. It’s hot. It’s dry. We know that,” Heineman says. “But, again, I do want to commend all the firefighters. We’re working with them and the emergency management people in the area. They’re doing a terrific job.”

Still, the governor says they will need a break after working nearly non-stop throughout the weekend.

“Here before too long, we’re going to need some replacements to give them a little bit of a break,” according to Heineman.

Graig Kinzie, KBRB, contributed to this report.