Wildfire in Banner County Burns About 4,000 Acres
RELEASE DATE: Aug 28, 2020
Local and State Resources Work to Control the Hubbard Gap Wildfire
Multiple resources have deployed to the Hubbard Gap Fire in the Wildcat Hills south of McGrew, Nebraska. The fire, in several canyons, is estimated at about 4,000 acres and had threatened farmstead, ranches and other agriculture properties.
Air support has dropped retardant to stop the spread of the fire. Thirteen flights, or sorties, were flown by three single engine air tankers (SEATs). The Nebraska SEAT and two from South Dakota are working the fire. In addition, a large air tanker out of Jefferson County Airport in Colorado has flown four sorties.
Two Nebraska Army National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters and 11 soldiers (two crews and a maintenance team) are on their way to Banner County to continue air support. The helicopters are equipped with 780-gallon water buckets.
Approximately 25 volunteer fire departments staged in a field South of McGrew and worked through the night to fight the wildland fire. Six firefighters were injured in the fire. Four firefighters were treated and released and two were hospitalized overnight.
The Banner County commissioners declared a local emergency and Gov. Pete Ricketts has approved a state emergency declaration which allows state funds to be used to fight the fire.
Region 22 Emergency Management Agency Management Director Tim Newman reports various fire departments and agencies are working together to fight the fire.
“The yearly training we do at the Western Engine Academy gave us the ability to quickly coordinate response from several different departments,” Newman said. “Firefighters and incident command are working together seamlessly in response to this fire. That is what makes the academy so valuable. We put to use the skills we learned there in an actual event.”
Newman said incident command is set up about a mile north of the Williams Gap Wildlife Management Area.
“We are continuing our work this morning to corral the fire as temperatures are lower and humidity is higher,” Newman said. “Fire activity could definitely increase this afternoon.”
He said the aircraft have been instrumental in providing increase firefighting capacity on the fire.
NEMA has partially activated the State Emergency Operation Center and held a briefing with emergency support function personnel Friday morning.
“We have been monitoring the increasingly dry conditions statewide and the increased risk for wildfire activity this summer,” said NEMA Assistant Director Bryan Tuma. “The rapid response of the local volunteer fire agencies and their capacity to effectively organize a response to this fire should be commended. State agency partners working with Region 22 Emergency Management and the incident commander has been crucial to identify resources needed to fight this fire. Significant investment in training and planning have paid dividends in forming an effective response to this event.”
“It takes a team effort to fight a fire of this size,” Tuma added. “Anytime a large fire develops, we can quickly deploy needed personnel and resources when requested by a local jurisdiction that has exceeded its resources.”
NEMA has deployed members of the Incident Management Assistance Team to the scene to support the local response. Tim Grubbs of Banner County is serving as Incident commander. NEMA also worked with the Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center, an interstate compact, to get the additional air resources to the scene.
Other resources at the fire include the Wildland Incident Response Assistance Team (WIRAT) from the State Fire Marshal’s Office, which deployed to the scene on Thursday to provide assistance and support to the local first responders. The team is highly trained in incident command and assists in working large incidents, coordinating water supplies and area supplies.
The Nebraska Forest Service, which manages multiple SEAT bases in Nebraska, opened the Scottsbluff SEAT Base so aircraft can pick up retardant loads at the base nearest the fire. In addition, NFS crews moved additional fire retardant resources to the Scottsbluff base.
Region 21 Emergency Manager, Ron Leal has deployed to the fire to work with incident command and provide incident leadership.
Firefighter Ministries has worked to provide meals for the firefighters who are responding.