Update: Governor Heineman will be attending the morning briefing at the Rushville Fire Hall tomorrow morning, Sunday, September 2.
The Wellnitz fire increased in size to an estimated 60,000 acres with 20 percent containment according to
Incident Commander Jerry Kearns of the Rushville Volunteer Fire Department.
“We are making positive progress on the fire,” Kearns said. “Our focus today is strategic reinforcement of our fire lines around structures. We’re contacting every residence in the fire area to see what can be done to reinforce those lines around structures.”
"Volunteer fire departments from outside the county are making a huge difference," Kearns said.
“We have had some phenomenal resources arrive and they have come from a long way off because all our mutual aid departments are already busy fighting the West Ash and Douthit fires. An Incident Management Team will begin arriving today to help control this fire. This is one of the bigger assets to bringing this fire under control.”
Thirty-four members of the Army Nebraska National Guard’s Chadron-based 1057th light/medium truck company arrived on scene Saturday morning. The intensively trained “red-card”crew is working on ground fire suppression.
Four Divisions, A, B, C and D have been established for managing the fire. Those division commanders are from the Hays Spring, Rushville and Gordon fire department.
The Red Cross is working with multiple community partners to provide meals and shelter to residents displaced by the fires, as well as the emergency responders battling the blazes.
Red Cross volunteers will continue to provide meals and shelter at multiple sites where responders can escape the intensity of the sun and flames to rehydrate and refuel. So far, more than 700 meals and snacks have provided and feeding efforts will continue throughout the coming days.
Anyone in need of information, a safe place to stay, or a meal is encouraged to stop at one of the Red Cross Shelters open in the area:
St. Patrick’s Assumption Arena, 340 Cedar St. in Chadron
Hope Baptist Mission, 218 East 8th St. in Rushville
The Red Cross is also reaching out to those whose homes were affected. Case work volunteers are meeting with affected residents to provide food, shelter, comfort and care as needed. Residents affected by the wildfires are urged to call toll-free (888) 382-3790 to talk with one of our trained volunteers.
· Chanook CH 47 and UH 72 Lakota from the Nebraska National Guard
For up-to-to date road closures call www.511.nebraska.gov or call 511
· All State highways are open in the northern panhandle. Watch for fire fighters, smoke and wild fire .
· Smoke can rapidly reduce visibility.
· There may be intermittent road closures because of the response.
· Fire officials request that members of the public stay off county roads to keep them clear for firefighting efforts.
· Evacuations were recommended for 50 households along Beaver Valley Road and the extension south of the South Dakota-Nebraska state line on Friday.
· High temp: 100 degrees, humidity 11 percent, winds, 16-19 mph. Smoke dispersal, excellent. No storms or precipitation are included in the forecast for the next several days.
· High and erratic winds and low humidity are hampering fire suppression.
Fire stats at a glance:
Start Date: Aug. 29, approximately 5 p.m.
Containment: 20 percent
Personnel: 141 Firefighters
Cooperating Agencies: Sheridan County, State of Nebraska, Nebraska Emergency Management Agency, Nebraska National Guard, State Fire Marshal, Department of Roads and Department of Environmental Quality
Volunteer Fire Departments: 29 departments represented, with 141 personnel in the field.
Aviation : (1) National Guard LUH-77 and a local fixed aircraft
Engines: 32 Grass rigs, 11 water trucks, 3 tanker/tender units, 3 motor graders, two bulldozers, two four wheelers
Injuries: 3 minor firefighter injuries
Structures destroyed: 50-60 outbuildings destroyed, and approximately 10 home damaged. No confirmation on any homes destroyed.
Equipment issues: transmission failure in motor grader, blow out on fire engine tire.