February 7, 2016

Western Nebraska wildfires burn nearly 90,000 acres

Burned path left by the wildfire near Chadron/Photo by Jen Rae Hein, Governor’s Office

Wildfires in western Nebraska have been largely contained after burning through nearly 90,000 acres in the Panhandle.

Authorities in western Nebraska report no new growth of either the West Ash Fire or the Douthit Fire with collective containment of the Region 23 Complex estimated at 85%. West Ash has burned 58,450 acres. Douthit has scorched 29,730 acres.

Firefighters today will focus on patrolling the area, completing mop-up of contained areas as well as the rehabilitation of dozer and fire lines.

“We’ve made very good progress. The indications from the incident commanders are that maybe in the next couple of days we’ll have these totally under control,” Gov. Dave Heineman tells Nebraska Radio Network.

Heineman visited the area on Sunday. The governor says the possibility of wildfires will remain in Nebraska for a while.

“It is hot. It is dry. So, we anticipate the next three-to-six weeks we’ll continue to monitor this on a day-to-day basis,” Heineman says. “Secondly, as farmers get in the fields to harvest their crops that will present another challenge with their combines and the dirt and the dry conditions that could start a fire, too. So, we’re in a very difficult and challenging environment right now.”

Heineman says he was impressed with the dedication of volunteer firefighters during his visit. Nearly 40 volunteer fire departments responded.

The Hudson-Meng Bison Kill Research and Visitor remain closed, due to concern about how the fire might affect new cultural resources. So far, there have been no reports of damage to the facilities.

Chadron State Park remains closed and likely will be closed for several weeks. Crews continue work to remove hazard trees and to clean up. The park will resume operations when it is considered safe for the public.

Anyone in need of assistance is encouraged to contact the American Red Cross at its toll free number 1-888-382-3790.

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