A wildfire that has swept through nearly 26,000 acres of pasture and farmland in central Nebraska has caused millions of dollars in crop losses and there's concern that hot weather and strong winds could keep the fire alive.
Stapleton Fire Chief Frank Kramer says crews contained much of the blaze Wednesday, but officials are concerned it may flare again due to the unusual heat and dry conditions. The fire continued to burn through more than 40-square miles near Stapleton in a sparsely populated area about 230 miles west of Omaha.
Kramer says it's too early to estimate damage, but the fire hit as local farmers were harvesting and storing crops. Farmer Art Kramer says the fire burned up to three-fourths of his family's corn crop.
One home was destroyed by the blaze and one man has been hospitalized for burns.
Those living near Stapleton were told to evacuate Tuesday night with just a few minutes notice to gather their belongings. “Woke up to a smell of smoke, about a half-hour later the fire department escorted me out of my house,” said homeowner Steven Benell. “At this point I don't know anything, don't know if my house is ablaze, don't know if we have a house left to go back to."
The Red Cross and Salvation Army have set up resources for shelter and other emergency needs for those who have been displaced.
Firefighters were also battling a wind-fueled fire sparked by a combine in a soybean field near Beatrice in southeast Nebraska.
The fire broke out early Wednesday afternoon and spread to adjacent fields. Officials said the fire was caused by an overheated manifold on the combine.
At least four fire departments were called out and farmers used discs to plow up the edges along the fire in an effort to contain it. Firefighters got the fire under control around 4 p.m. and were working to contain hot spots. There was no immediate estimate on how many acres were involved.