Firefighters Make Progress on Region 23 Fire Complex

Significant progress was made on the two fires that comprise the Region 23 Fire Complex.  To date, the Douthit fire has burned 29, 730 acres and the West Ash fire has burned 57,825 acres.  The Douthit fire is 95% contained and is in a mop up and patrol status while the West Ash fire remains the most active and is listed at 45% contained.
A relatively quiet night with slightly lower temperatures and higher humidity allowed firefighters the opportunity to fortify firelines which had been tested by the high winds of the previous several days.  Light rain was noticed in several areas of the fires, but was expected to provide little relief to the extremely dry fuels.  There is a slight threat for dry lightning with any afternoon thunderstorms.
Yesterday, significant indirect efforts to provide extra protection to the city of Chadron were completed, including drops from the DC-10 Very Large Air Tanker, (VLAT) of 36,000 gallons of retardant, and heavy equipment completed lines around each home.  Near Crawford, fire officials successfully completed a five-mile burnout operation to help reinforce containment lines.
The second of two community meetings was held last night at the in the City of Chadron with nearly 200 people in attendance.  City, County, and Federal officials, Incident Management team members and the Nebraska State Forester praised the excellent teamwork and cooperation by all agencies and organizations in fighting the fires and keeping residents safe.  Especially noted was the hard work performed by the local fire departments.  As operations section Chief Craig Beckner said later, “ I’d take them anywhere”.
Five residences and numerous outbuildings have been confirmed as lost.  Assessment of properties will continue.  To date, there have been no firefighter injuries, and safety of firefighters and public safety is always a top priority.   
Today firefighters will continue to aggressively mop up and hold existing containment lines, paying significant attention to interior islands of unburned fuel and structure protection, especially near hot spots which continue to smolder.
 EVACUATIONS:  Evacuation orders have been lifted for the Community of Whitney and the Crow Butte Uranium Mine. All other evacuations in the Western and Southern portions of the West Ash Fire are still in effect. Areas that are included in this evacuation area: West Ash Creek Road, Dryer Road, Saw Log Road, Crow Butte Road, Squaw Creek Road,  Breakneck Road, Horseshoe Road, Chadron State Park continues to remain closed.
Evacuations are expected to remain in place for the next 24 to 36 hours. Law enforcement and fire management are reviewing the daily weather forecasts, wind direction, fire behavior and progress made in containing the fire in and around residents’ homes. If all of these factors become stable enough for officials to feel comfortable that they would not have to ask residents to leave their homes again, the decision will then be made to allow evacuees to return home.

Last modified onSunday, 02 September 2012 11:39

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