Dry conditions due to the lingering drought combined with high winds and fall debris, sparking nearly a dozen wildfires throughout Nebraska, burning approximately 58,000 acres.
Nebraska Emergency Management Agency Assistant Director Al Berndt says the most serious fire began at the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota, drove south and crossed the border, threatening Kilgore, Nebraska.
“I believe there was in excess 25 volunteer fire departments out on that one and they were able to protect the village and, ultimately, cut the flanks off on that fire,” Berndt tells Nebraska Radio Network.
Firefighters report having difficulty keeping the fires in Cherry County contained, due to the strong winds. Crookston has been officially re-opened.
Wildfires have also been reported in Holt, Boone, Knox, Merrick, Nance, Fillmore and Frontier Counties. Berndt says the state stands ready to aid the volunteer fire departments which have been responding to the wildfires.
Another fire erupted in Holt County and approached Stuart, both from the west and the east.
Berndt says that fire has his attention.
“I guess, kind of worried about that fire a little bit. I hated to see it get down into the trees along the Elkhorn River; there’s a lot of fuel down in there,” Berndt says. “We could have seen another situation that rivaled the fires in Boyd, Brown, Keya Paha and Cherry Counties earlier this year.”
A mile of trees west of Stuart continues to burn, otherwise the fire has been largely contained. The fire burned an estimated 600 acres, destroying a number of outbuildings.
Eleven fire departments quickly responded to a fire in Knox County, south of Center, containing it after it burned through about 300 acres.
A fire near Cedar Rapids has been contained, according to NEMA, after eating through 500 acres. Firefighters have also contained the St. Edwards fire that burned 160 acres. NEMA reports the Genoa fires is contained in a canyon, but remains active around the rim where it is feeding off of dry timber. Hay bales near Palmer caught fire, but didn’t spread beyond a feed lot.
NEMA also reports that nine fire departments responded to the Fillmore fire, which has been largely contained.
The strong winds today have fire officials on alert and, though any wildfire can become extremely dangerous, Berndt says no injuries have been reported and none of the fires have approached the destructive capacity of the huge wildfires earlier this year.
“In total acreages burnt yesterday, with 11 fires, ultimately wasn’t that big of acreages. I think in total acreages burnt this summer, we’re in excess of 300,000 acres,” Berndt says.
Fire officials have asked farmers to delay the harvest and haying until the winds die down.