"Cooler" Weather Helping Firefighters

By: Kim Eiten Email
By: Kim Eiten Email

Fire stats at a glance:

Start Date: July 20, 2012
Containment: 25 percent
Cause: Lightning
Acreage: 72,405 total (Fairfield 66,745; Wentworth, 3,278; Hall, 2,382)
Personnel: 321, plus approximately 80 Rural Fire Department personnel
Crews: six crews on the fire line
Cooperating Agencies: Brown, Keya Paha and Cherry County Sheriff Offices, State of Nebraska, Ainsworth, Springview, Valentine, and Wood Lake VFDs, Nebraska National Guard, Nebraska State Fire Marshall, Nebraska Emergency Management Agency, Nebraska State Patrol, National Park Service, The Nature Conservancy, and American Red Cross
Aviation :
Six Heavy-lift helicopters, one medium, and one light.
Engines: 30, plus 40 Rural Fire Department engines
Injuries: 3 (minor)
Structures destroyed: 10 and associated outbuildings
Structures/outbuildings threatened: 128

The wildfires burning in north-central Nebraska have grown, but firefighters hope more favorable weather will help efforts to beat the flames back.

Nebraska Emergency Management Agency spokesman Mike Wight says the main Fairfield Creek fire just west of Springview expanded overnight to more than 104 square miles, from 92 square miles on Tuesday. Two other smaller fires about 20 miles east of the main fire had burned nearly nine square miles by Wednesday morning. Fire officials say there are now over 72,000 acres in flames. That's up from the 65,000 acres reported Monday.

Wight says authorities expect to get more help from the weather Wednesday. No rain is expected, but winds will be much lighter and the humidity will be higher. Temperatures, which had topped 100 degrees in recent days, were expected to stay in the 80s Wednesday morning and top out in the mid-90s by late Wednesday afternoon.

Army National Guard Sergeant James Nordman said he's hopeful that the change in weather will be a help gain ground.

"It's hopefully going to turn the tide of the fire and allow us access to some of the harder points to get to," said Nordman. "It's a mean fire. It ranks right up there as one of the worst I've seen."

Crews will continue to attack the fire in full force from both the air and the ground. While the weather brings some relief, crews know they still have a long way to go.

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