Efforts to contain a wildfire burning a huge swath through north-central Nebraska have been hampered by extremely hot temperatures and gusting southern winds.
Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala says the National Guard helicopters deployed to assist firefighters have given firefighters on the ground their only chance to keep up with the Fairfield Creek Fire that has burned more than 50,000 acres.
Residents of the small community of Sparks have been notified that they might have to leave their homes if the fire cannot be diverted from its current path.
“Today, the aerial units were giving the ground forces their only chance to keep up,” Fiala told Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KBRB. “If we can keep the wind down on Tuesday, we might be able to get on top of it a little.”
The Fairfield Creek Fire broke the northern containment line on Highway 12 about three miles west of Cub Creek Monday afternoon.
“It burned about 150 acres north of Highway 12, but the fire resources in that area got it knocked down,” Fiala said. “It would have been a huge fire in that terrain if had kept burning north, and there would have been no place to stop it.”
Another wildfire named the Wentworth Fire flared up in southeastern Keya Paha County and broke containment in the Niobrara River basin canyon area. Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock said crews in Keya Paha County are struggling to slow down the fire moving toward open ground to the northeast.
Graig Kinzie, KBRB, contributed to this report.