Update: Nebraska Forest Fire 100% Contained

By: Sara Geake Email
By: Sara Geake Email

Fire Officials declared the Camp 5 Fire as 100% contained at 3 p.m. on the 4th of July.

Update from the U.S. Forest Service:

Tim Buskirk, Bessey District Ranger said, “I can’t think of a better message to celebrate this holiday than to say Camp 5 Fire is 100% contained. We will continue to monitor the area with a couple of engines and small crew but will be releasing the rest for assignment to other fires or to their home units.”

The Camp 5 Fire started June 30 approximately 22 miles southeast of Halsey by a lightning strike from a mid-day thunderstorm. The fire burned 1,043 acres of National Forest grasslands and timber. No private lands, structures or outbuildings were burned or damaged.

“In the next few weeks we will complete a comprehensive damage assessment of roads, trails and general conditions, and then we can move forward with rehabilitation,” he said. “Finally, I want to send a special thanks to the two Soldier Creek Hand Crews, their supervisors, John Cattin and Brian Piontek from the Pine Ridge Job Corps Center in Chadron, NE. My hat’s off to this young, highly professional fire crew. They worked hard and stayed with us right down to the end, doing the hard mop-up work that assures a successful closure to Camp 5,” said Buskirk.

The entire Nebraska National Forests & Grasslands remains under Stage II Fire Restriction Orders, and fireworks are not allowed anywhere on National Forest System lands.

Sara Geake's report from Halsey Sunday:

Though fire bursts are becoming less and less common, the man in charge, Paul Moses, is not calling a fire under control. His concern are fires still burning on the outskirts of the containment area.

The U.S. Forest Service credits volunteer departments - eight of them - with preventing evacuations in the area, and keeping the fire to about 1,000 acres.

"If it weren't for the volunteers we wouldn't be where we're at right now," said Moses.

Most of those volunteers have been sent home as federal crews replace them. They're facing the same remote, rugged terrain and high temperatures.

"We've been drinking lots of water, got this [water backpack], but it's hot [water]," said Kelly Jo Elser, working with the Soldier Creek crew.

"We're basically mopping up, securing the fire edge," said Soldier Creek crew leader John Cattin.

But, even when the fire is out, there's still a lot of work to be done.

"Pulling vegetation back over to hopefully keep them from washing if we get a good rain or if they start blowing," said Bessey District Ranger Tim Buskirk . "Probably do a little reseeding."

In the meantime, there will be an impact on the grasslands and the ranchers who lease them.

"We'll have to work with them and try to figure out strategies to move their cows around to where they can get some grass," said Buskirk.

Moses said Sunday, he thought it would take a week to make the progress that was made Monday.

Now, forest officials plan to reopen the Natick Campground and its horse corrals, and hope to have some ATV trails open by this weekend.

Buskirk warns all Nebraskans to be careful as parts of the state experience historic drought, especially while celebrating the Independence Day.


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