Fires across northwest Nebraska in Dawes, Sheridan and Sioux counties have burned more than 68,000 acres and windy conditions could fan the flames. The Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team C says there are two fires – the West Ash Fire near Chadron and the Douthit Fire near Crawford. They are estimated to be 25 percent contained as of Friday.
Firefighters are concerned potential high winds over the next several days could expand the fire coverage area, which is mostly in “rugged inaccessible terrain burning ponderosa pine and grass.” Chadron State Park is closed to the public. Chadron State College canceled classes Thursday and Friday, although the campus remains open. Smoke forced additional road closures near Fort Robinson. Some evacuations have already taken place in both main fire areas, and those living east of Highway 385 have been told to prepare for a possible evacuation.
A community meeting is scheduled for Friday evening at 7:30 pm at the Crawford Community Center to talk about current fire conditions, evacuations, road closures and the progress made on the fires.
Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman has activated the State Emergency Operations Plan and activated the State Operation Center. Lt. Governor Rick Sheehy and representatives from the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency are surveying the fires near Chadron, Crawford and Rushville Friday.
“I am continually impressed with the hard work of Nebraskans in difficult situations,” said Gov. Heineman. “The local communities are working very hard and are supportive of the efforts of local responders and firefighters. We will continue to work together as we fight these fires.”