The wildfires that have plagued areas of the Nebraska panhandle are offering a mix of good and bad news. Collectively, three general areas of wildfires have burned nearly 260 square miles of land.
Let’s start with the good news.
On Monday, hundreds of firefighters who have battled wildfires in the Chadron area were told they could go home. The Douthit fire was 99% contained and the West Ash fire was 55% contained. As many as 700 people were working those fires. The number was down to about 400 Monday night.
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The bad news can be found to the east of Chadron. One fire is burning north of Rushville. A second fire was burning near the Oglala Reservoir in Shannon County South Dakota. The fires were only 27% contained as of Monday afternoon.
South Dakota authorities reported that gravel roads in the fire zone and surrounding areas were badly damaged due to heavy traffic. The roads were already compromised by the ongoing drought. Road surfaces were especially bad along 450 Lane (Beaver Wall Road) north of Hay Springs and along 640 Road and 370 Trail west of Highway 87.
All state highways were open in the northern panhandle Monday. However, travelers are advised to watch out for firefighters, smoke, and wildfires.
Twenty-two soldiers from the Nebraska Army National Guard’s Chadron-based 1057th light/medium truck company remained on the fire lines while 12 others were in Chadron to work on equipment.
No evacuations were underway as of Monday.
The state of Nebraska says 39 fire departments have responded to the wildfires. They are Ainsworth, Ansley, Atkinson, Axtell, Bassett, Bayard, Burwell, Casper, Cody Rural Fire, Curtis,
Dalton, Edison, Elm Creek, Gordon, Hay Springs, Heart of the Hills, Hyannis, Keya Paha Co. RF,
Kilgore, Maxwell, Merriman, Minatare, Minden, Morrill, North Platte, O’Neill, Oxford, Paxton ,
Red Willow Western, Rushville, Sargent, Sidney, Stuart, Thedford, Valentine, Wallace,
Willsonville and Woodlake