As more people build homes in the hilly, wooded areas of eastern Nebraska, the threat of wildfires is rising.
Jorden Smith is the new Wildland Urban Interface Forester, headquartered at the Lewis & Clark Natural Resources District in Hartington.
Smith says he’ll be working with home and land owners to be “fire smart” with their developments.
“My role would be to come in and talk to them about reducing the amount of cedars around their houses to make them safer, reducing the amount of fuel loads in that area,” Smith says, “so, coming in and doing fuel breaks or fire breaks around homes and communities.”
The ultimate goal is to help those homeowners and communities survive should a wildfire break out in their region. Smith says past wildfires in western Nebraska are something of a preview to what could happen on the other end of the state.
“If we look out west, there’s a lot more hotter, drier summers which are leading to larger, more destructive fires,” Smith says. “That’s just going to continue and that trend is going to keep moving further east. When we think of the fires of 2012 that happened out near the Ainsworth and Chadron areas, we can now start seeing those creep a bit further to the east.”
Smith’s position, one of just two in the entire state, is funded by a three-year grant to the University of Nebraska from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton