Nebraska Fires Continue to Burn
RELEASE DATE: Apr 12, 2023
Critical Fire Weather Expected for Next 2 Days
April 11, 2023 (LINCOLN, NEB.) — After wildfires started in six Nebraska counties Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Jim Pillen declared disasters in three of the six – Cherry, Garfield and Jefferson. The fires in Lincoln, Wheeler and Rock counties are now either out or in mop-up stages.
The McCann Fire in Cherry County is 0 percent contained and has burned 7,040 acres. A Nebraska Emergency Management Agency liaison is on scene to assist in acquiring state assets to the county. Local volunteer fire departments from Kilgore, Cody, Valentine and the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Nation in South Dakota are among the responders. Firefighters from U.S. Fish and Wildlife and U.S. Forest Service have also responded.
The fire started southwest of Kilgore and spread rapidly toward the community of Kilgore. “Thanks to the speed of local first responders, the fire was stopped two miles south of town,” said NEMA Liaison Chris Schroeder. “Incident command’s operational focus today is to hold that line and work various hotspots in the canyon with an emphasis on responder and public safety.”
Kilgore residents evacuated as a safety measure, Tuesday but were able to return to their homes before dusk. A shelter at the Cody High School was opened for those who evacuated.
“Local communities in Cherry County have used bulldozers to make fire breaks to help the containment efforts,” Schroeder said. “While four homes were threatened yesterday, firefighters were able to stop the fire’s progress without any structures lost.”
Temperatures in the 80s, low humidity and high winds have resulted in a Red Flag Warning being issued in the area.
Jefferson County is experiencing one of its largest wildfires with the Rock Creek Fire at 2,600 acres. Fifty volunteer firefighters are on scene. Incident command reported the fire was at 30 percent containment this afternoon. A Nebraska National Guard hand crew are among the firefighters working the fire and a National Guard UH-60 helicopter is dropping water to extinguish the fire.
Wind speeds have been sustained at 20 mph but are picking up this afternoon. Gusts of 30 miles per hour are expected. Nine agencies are working at the incident command post Fairbury Rural Fire Department to get additional resources to the scene as needed.
People are asked to stay clear of the area to allow firefighters an opportunity to fight the fire. Donations are no longer being sought as community members responded quickly to requests made Tuesday.
The Lowry Fire in Garfield County burned 6,000 acres, 15 miles north of Burwell. Mop-up operations have begun. Two injuries were reported, and four structures destroyed including a storage building at the Rowes Hydraulic Rake Manufacturing Plant, 22 miles north of Burwell. Eight homes and a church were threatened. Local aviation dropped water on the fire.
Continued critical fire weather is expected and the public is encouraged to remain aware for wildfire conditions across the state by visiting: www.nema.nebraska.gov/. A fire date dashboard is available at https://www.arcgis.com/apps/dashboards/831e38de33b541cdb60d71c44e45d6ff.
Morning briefing at the Fairbury Rural Fire department, Wednesday morning. Photo by Jefferson and Saline County Emergency Management.
Gov. Jim Pillen, center with microphone, addresses the State Emergency Operations Center, Wednesday morning. Gov. Pillen approved three emergency declarations to aid locals firefighting efforts.