Fire officials who have been battling a huge wildfire in north-central Nebraska are edging close to declaring it contained.
Work continues to contain two other wildfires.
Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala says he’s close to declaring the Fairfield Creek Fire contained after burning nearly 100,000 acres.
“Now, granted there are going to be hotspots along that whole corridor for days to come,” Fiala tells Graig Kinzie with Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KBRB. “So, don’t get too alarmed if you see some smoke.”
Firefighters will attack those hotspots today, attempting to keep the fire from spreading. A break in the temperature has helped. Rain would help more.
The Wentworth and Hall fires in Keya Paha County still resist containment, though firefighters might be getting a handle on them as well.
Fiala says an “aerial assault” has helped damp those fires back.
“A lot of helicopters, they dumped a lot of water on the Wentworth fire and the Hall fire,” according to Fiala. “The last report I’ve seen on the Hall fire, I have not been over there at all, but while I was over to the Wentworth fire, I didn’t see any smoke whatsoever and that’s kind of the report we’re getting. They’re really putting a close closure on the Hall fire.”
As many as 400 firefighters from 35 fire departments from throughout the region have been battling the wildfires since a lightning strike last Friday sparked the Fairfield Creek Fire.
It has proven to be a costly battle, according to Fiala, who says the last best guess on the fuel cost has been pegged at $150,000, which he says might be low.
“If you have this much of an operation going on, you get 70, 80, 90 trucks out there going full-bore all day long, even 24 hours a day, they use a lot of fuel. That fuel bill is just going to be tremendous,” Fiala says.
Fiala acknowledges that firefighters on the frontlines have fought their own personal battles against fatigue and stress. Weather conditions, with temperatures in triple digits, have been draining and the rugged terrain has been demanding. Most of the firefighters are volunteers.
“This is our sixth day, and it is still kind of a blur to me,” Fiala, who works for Plains Equipment, says. “We need to get back to work and get back to our jobs. It will be nice to get back to our jobs just to get our mind on something different.”
The North Central Development Center has set up a fund to assist all the area fire departments fighting the Niobrara River valley fires and to assist those who have lost their homes. Checks can be mailed to the North Central Development Center at 335 N. Main St., Ainsworth, NE 69210. Mention the fire relief effort in the check’s memo line. Donations will go to all of the area fire departments. All donations are tax deductible, as the North Central Development Center is a 501c3 non-profit organization.
Graig Kinzie, KBRB, contributed to this report.
AUDIO: Graig Kinzie with KBRB interviews Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala. [5:30]