Firefighters on site to prevent rekindling of wildfires

Tuesday, February 27, 2024
Gary Banzhaf of Cozad shared this photo of the view as firefighters approached the wildfire. “Thank God the four in my truck made it home safely,” he wrote. “There is no way to describe what we encountered today.”
Gary Banzhaf/Courtesy photo

NORTH PLATTE, Neb. — Mopping up operations on the ground and in the air continued today after wildfires destroyed homes and buildings north and northeast of North Platte in Lincoln and Custer counties.

Firefighters from McCook and the entire region responded to the fires, which started on private lands from unknown causes. Red Willow Western firefighters were called in for 12-hour shifts to help contain the fires overnight, battling embers from burning trees and underbrush.

Gov. Jim Pillen greenlit a state disaster declaration, unlocking funds from the Governor’s Emergency Fund to bolster response efforts.

Responding to urgent calls for assistance, Nebraska’s Incident Management Team and the Wildland Incident Response Assistant Team has been deployed, augmenting local firefighting capabilities. Additionally, two National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters are set to join the firefighting operations, commencing water drops today, with additional aircraft aiding with water drops and mapping the fire for strategic planning.

The fires, spread by 40 mph winds forced at least temporary evacuation of Stapleton, Gandy and areas north and east of North Platte and as far as Brady and Gothenburg.

Despite the intensity of the wildfires, authorities reported no immediate personal injuries. However, infrastructure damage was considerable, with windbreaks, wells, and fences succumbing to the flames.

As nightfall brought a respite in wind intensity, the National Weather Service predicted a shift in wind direction, potentially aiding containment efforts. Nevertheless, rugged terrain and limited road access continued to pose challenges for firefighters.

The Salvation Army in North Platte opened its doors to evacuees, while firefighters received crucial support in the form of water and snacks.

While the exact cause of the wildfires remains under investigation, early indications suggest human activity may be responsible.

With dry conditions prevailing, authorities urge vigilance and adherence to safety protocols to mitigate the risk of further incidents.

Billie Cole of Red Willow Western urged caution as the windy and low-humidity conditions continued, taking care not to ignite dry weeds and grass during outdoor activities.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: