Fire crews are making significant progress in extinguishing several wildfires in western Nebraska near Chadron. Of the two largest fires in Dawes County, one is now said to be 95% contained, while the other is about half under control. The two blazes have charred more than 87,000 acres, or about 138 square miles.
While high winds the past several days whipped the flames and spread the fires much more quickly, crews say the winds are calming and the humidity levels are rising, allowing them to fortify firelines. There’s also been some light rain. While the moisture is a benefit, it also brings the renewed risk of lightning with thunderstorms.
Extra protection is being added to keep the flames from reaching Chadron, as large aircraft are dropping tens of thousands of gallons of fire retardant, while heavy containment lines are being formed around homes.
So far, at least five homes and numerous outbuildings have been lost in this round of wildfires. No injuries are reported, to residents or firefighters. No dollar figure on estimated damage has been released.
It’s still unclear how many residents were evacuated. Some have been allowed to return, but others may have to stay out for another 36 hours, depending on weather conditions. Evacuation orders were lifted for the community of Whitney and the Crow Butte Uranium Mine. All other evacuations in the western and southern parts of the West Ash Fire are still in effect.