Day Three - Fairfield Creek Fire
- Published on Sunday, 22 July 2012 13:30
Day two, Saturday, July 21st, of what’s being called the Fairfield Creek Fire dawned cool with hopes of getting the fire, that started from lightning on Thursday evening, July 19th, under control.
Those hopes were soon dashed and what progress was made on Friday was gone.
The fire started on Fairfield Creek on the south side of the Niobrara River. Strong winds pushed the fire north towards the Niobrara River and firefighters expected it to stop at the river.
But instead, the fire jumped the river and headed north towards Norden and Highway 12. Many firefighting crews were sent north to battle the flames and they were able to get it stopped at Highway 12 from continuing north. But firefighters now had two fires separated by the Niobrara River.
As of Saturday morning, Doug Fox, Director of Region 24 Emergency Management, estimated that the fire had burned 30,000 acres. By Saturday night his estimate was near 90,000 acres.
“We took a big step backwards on Saturday. Instead of fighting two fires, one on each side of the Niobrara River, we were fighting four fires. The fires burned east and west on both sides of the Niobrara River on Saturday.
“We knew the fires were still burning along the river, but couldn’t get to the hot spots. The 100+ degree temperatures, rough terrain and strong winds combined to triple the size of the fire.
“Then a storm system went through eastern Keya Paha County starting more fires and we had to pull equipment off the fire lines to fight those fires.”
According to Fox, more structures were lost on Saturday and Saturday night. The Bill Barnes house on the Norden Road had been saved by fire fighters on Friday. The fires flared up along the Norden Road north of the Niobrara River on Saturday and the house was lost.
On Saturday night, two more houses were lost on the north side of the Niobrara River, one of them was the Mike Tuerk home.
Fox said that the State of Nebraska has arranged for two additional helicopters to help fight the fire. There will be three helicopters working the fire on Sunday, July 22nd.
“Two helicopters will be working the eastern fire near Meadville and the third will be working the western end of the fire where needed,” said Doug Fox.
“Late Saturday afternoon, we evacuated both sides of the Niobrara River from the Norden Bridge east to the Highway 183 Bridge. We also had to evacuate the Western Command Center from just south of the Norden Bridge to Johnstown on Saturday evening.
“We have three command centers at present, the Ainsworth Command Center at the Ainsworth Fire Hall, the Northern Command Center in Springview and the Western Command Center in Johnstown. There are four stagging areas for firefighters - Johnstown, Ainsworth, Springview and Norden.”
Fox said that during the night on Saturday, Cherry County started a back fire in Coleman Canyon on the north side of the Niobrara River in Keya Paha County. According to officials on the scene, the back fire worked and slowed the fire and fire lines were cut on Sunday morning, in hopes of stopping the progress of the fire west.
Fox received a report that the fire on the Nature Conservancy on the east side of the Norden Road and south of the Niobrara River was 95% contained and the fire on the west side of the Norden Road and on the south side of the Niobrara River was also contained.
The donations of food, drinks and help from local citizens has been outstanding. People keep bringing water and sport drinks along with food and other items to the Ainsworth Fire Hall. The items are then put into coolers and taken to the firemen fighting the fires.
Volunteers have been helping at the Ainsworth Fire Hall 24 hours a day since the fire started. The same thing is happening in Norden and Springview.
The American Red Cross has opened a shelter for people displaced by Fairfield Creek Fire. The shelter is located in the Ainsworth Community Schools facility at 520 East 2nd Street Ainsworth, NE 69210. Anyone displaced by the fire is urged to come to the shelter for a safe place to sleep, a meal, minor first aid, referrals and a shoulder to lean on. Volunteer teams will continue to provide food and hydration to the firefighters battling the wildfire.
As soon as conditions are deemed safe by local authorities, additional Red Cross Volunteers will arrive to assess damage to area homes and conduct interviews with affected families. Food, clothing, shelter, comfort and care will be provided based on need. Snacks and drinks will be provided to area residents as well.
The Red Cross fixed breakfast for firefighters on Sunday morning and were preparing sack lunches for crews for Sunday afternoon.
Doug Fox said that we have and are receiving help from over half the State of Nebraska. We have crews from as far west as Gering helping us. “At this time it is hard to say how many communities have sent us help, but we know from Gering to Ewing and south to Brady, Maxwell and Curtis. The Nebraska National Guard is also on hand to help with the firefighting. The State Fire Marshall’s office has sent in a team that specialize in this type of fire to help organize and coordinate all the various groups fighting the fire.”
“By the time this fire is out, it could go down as the biggest fire in Nebraska history,” said Doug Fox, Director of Region 24 Emergency Management.
Norden and Norden Road
Command, Volunteers and Donations