August 20, 2014

State emergency plans activated to respond to wild fires in Panhandle

The State Emergency Operations Plans have been activated by Gov. Dave Heineman to include a partial activation of the State Operation Center in response to fires in western Nebraska.

Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy and members of the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency are traveling to the Panhandle today to survey the damage done by fires in Dawes, Sheridan and Sioux Counties.

The Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team C reports that nearly 70,000 acres have burned near Chadron, Crawford and Rushville. Two fires have done the damage: The West Ash Fire near Chadron and the Douthit Fire near Crawford. The West Ash fire is the larger of the two, consuming nearly 45,000 acres. The Douthhit fire has burned nearly 25,000. Lightning strikes Tuesday ignited the fires. Containment is only estimated at 10%.

The governor authorized an emergency declaration for statewide drought and fires that triggers a state response to local incidents, activating resources such as the Nebraska National Guard and Nebraska Emergency Management Agency.

The fires have closed Chadron State Park. Chadron State College dismissed classes early for the Labor Day Weekend.

Highway 385 remains open to one lane of traffic, with a pilot car from mile marker 160 to 167.