Fire restrictions have been eased on land within the Nebraska National Forests and Grasslands after a brutally hot and dry summer.
Officials at the National Forest still want you to be cautious, certainly careful with any fire, but the tight, tight restrictions have been lifted; a little.
Campers on federal lands can build campfires on developed campgrounds and improved sites. Smoking is restricted to inside a car or building or in an area cleared of vegetation. During the height of the dry, hot summer, activity that could even come close to sparking a fire was banned. Shorter days and cooler weather have prompted an easing of the restrictions.
Forest Fire Management Officer Tristan Fluharty says storms this summer failed to provide needed rain, but did bring lightning strikes that set the forests ablaze.
“It was one of the worst seasons on record as far as the weather and vegetation conditions,” Fluharty tells Nebraska Radio Network. “Since we’ve been keeping records on the Nebraska National Forest, this was our biggest year for both fire starts and for acres burned.”
The Northern Great Plans Interagency Dispatch calculates 133 fires that burned 200,335 acres of the Nebraska National Forests and Grasslands, which is located in central and western Nebraska as well as central and western South Dakota. The two national forests are in Nebraska, The Nebraska National Forest between Chadron and Crawford and the McKelvie National Forest near Cody and Kilgore.
Fluharty is quick to point out that that counts only the fires within the Nebraska National Forests, both in Nebraska and South Dakota, or fires to which national forest firefighters responded. It doesn’t count the acreage burned on private lands this summer.
Some moisture has fallen since summer, mostly notably three inches of snow in the Chadron area this past weekend. Fluharty says that’s far from what is needed.
“No. We’d like a lot more. We’re still in drought conditions,” according to Fluharty. “The little bit of moisture that we have gotten has helped a lot, but we’re still in those drought conditions.”
Though fire restrictions have been eased, they likely won’t be lifted anytime soon as the drought that has sat over Nebraska doesn’t seem interested in moving anytime soon.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:40]