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Dawes County Fire Burns 1,800 Acres

Disaster Declaration Issued

Lincoln, Neb. —A wind-driven wildfire in Dawes County east of the village of Whitney burned nearly 1,800 acres of grassland Tuesday while firefighters from five volunteer fire departments, the U.S. Forest Service and two single engine air tankers (SEAT) worked to extinguish the blaze.

Nebraska Emergency Management Agency authorized use of the SEAT to fight what is being called the Lone Tree Fire at the request of Region 23 Emergency Management Director Nan Gould. Due to the size and speed of the fire, the SEAT out of Hot Springs, S.D. was also requested.

Acting Gov. Mike Foley signed an emergency declaration to pay for disaster response out of the Governor’s emergency fund. Gov. Pete Ricketts is out of the country on a trade mission to Japan.

“This was a wind-driven event,” said Chadron Volunteer Fire Department Chief Pat Gould. “The wind was primarily out of the southwest, however it kept switching directions. It pushed the fire northeast through some pretty tall grass.”

Incident Commander Brian Prosser, chief of the Crawford Volunteer Fire Department, reported that a mechanical failure on a hay baler was the likely cause of the fire.

Crawford, Chadron, Rushville, Hay Springs and Olerichs, S.D. volunteer fire departments responded and spent approximately four hours working the fire. The U.S. Forest Service provided additional engines and Dawes County maintenance used maintainers and water tenders to prevent the fire from spreading. The fire was contained by 6 p.m.

The Nebraska SEAT will be on call through at least Oct. 1 to respond to elevated fire risk in the region according to NEMA Assistant Director Bryan Tuma.