Fire danger continues to rise, residents still waiting for rain

By Jordan Huether

Two fires kept area fire crews busy last week, with a hay truck catching fire west of Gordon Thursday, and a large grass fire claiming over 750 acres on Celia Ostrander’s property near Rushville.

On Thursday around noon, a truck hauling a load of hay caught fire just west of the KSDZ radio station, diverting traffic on Highway 20 for nearly three hours. The Gordon Fire Department was quick to the scene, and was able to save the truck, however the trailer was lost to the flames.

The crew patiently pushed the burning hay into the north ditch and allowed it to burn out in a controlled manner until the flames were completely extinguished. On Friday a large fire broke out on Celia Ostrander’s land near Rushville and took off quickly due to the unusually dry conditions. By the time the crews were able to get the flames under control, the fire had claimed nearly 800 acres of grassland. The cause of the fire is still unknown.

“We are very grateful to the Gordon and Hay Springs fire departments for their quick responses,” said Jerry Kearns. “If it wasn’t for all of the crews in our community working together, we never would have been able to combat such a large, volatile fire.”

“We need people to realize that all of Sheridan County is in a Stage 1 fire alert, and there is an extreme fire danger right now,” continued Kearns. “Right now the grasses and smaller shrubs, what we call fine fuels and are common throughout our area, are the driest I’ve ever seen them, and I’ve been a fireman since ‘78.”

“We have to be very aware of the fact that these fuels are so highly volatile right now, and that there is still a burn ban in Nebraska. If you have open burns, you need to be responsible for them,” stated Kearns.

“We are starting a real early season with irrigation systems and windmills, and we are asking that farmers please turn their windmills on early this year so the fire department can get access to water should a fire break out. If people with irrigation systems are willing to allow the departments to access their water supplies in the event of a fire, please contact us at the Gordon, Rushville or Hay Springs fire halls.”

A daunting fact is that in March 2012, Sheridan County has already had more fires than in all of 2011. March and April are some of the highest fire months in northwestern Nebraska, so please be careful.

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