Southwest Nebraska towns evacuate as wildfires spread

Published: Apr. 23, 2022 at 2:10 AM CDT|Updated: Apr. 23, 2022 at 7:41 AM CDT
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NORTH PLATTE, Neb. (KNOP) - A wildfire burned from the Kansas border to the Cambridge area, with a smaller fire in between Cambridge and Stockville on Friday.

By Saturday morning, the Nebraska Department of Transportation reported that thanks to the hard work of emergency responders, fire conditions have improved. However, fire risk & significant blowing dust are still a concern Saturday.

One volunteer firefighter said she took her kids to McCook early Friday afternoon as the smoke neared her home. Early on she encouraged people to check on each other, communicate, turn on sprinklers, check Nebraska 511 for road closings, and leave if affected by smoke in any way.

Tiffany Hock was the appointed Public Information Officer during the chaos of the Road 739 Wildfire near Arapahoe just a short time ago. She was appointed in a terrifying time directly after a deadly accident claimed the life of the Elwood Volunteer Fire Chief Darren Krull, and put the Phelps County Emergency Manager Justin Norris in the hospital. She says this fire is bigger and scarier.

The Road 702 Wildfire started in the northwest corner of Norton County, Kansas. It traveled north, northeast, but then Hock said it shifted west. Winds continued to push the fire north, too, leading to evacuations in Cambridge and Bartley, with strong warnings for Wilsonville, and people living around or camping at Cambridge Lake (Harry Strunk Lake, near Cambridge).

There are several places open for people to stay as they leave their homes. If you need assistance call the Red Willow Sheriff’s non-emergency line at (308) 345-3450 or 911 for an emergency.

* Arapahoe Public School will be open for a shelter. Use the door on the NW corner. They say they need air mattresses at the Arapahoe School (door 7 at the northwest corner).

* McCook Christian Church.

* Blessings Childcare in McCook is open and has cribs and supplies for children. The owner offered diapers or formula for those in need.

* Knights of Columbus in McCook is open. They have refreshments for those who need a place to shelter safely.

* Hunt Nebraska lodge in Arapahoe took folks, but other than a couple of couches, by midnight, on their Facebook page they say they are full.

* Ella Missing Center.

*The hospital in Cambridge is not accepting new patients at this time. “Tri-Valley Health System is currently on diversion until further notice. All patients, residents, and staff are safe. For any emergency needs call 911.”

* Holbrook Community building.

* McCook E-Free Church.

This wildfire is pulling resources from across the state. Following is at least a partial list of the fire departments working together. Around 70 different fire departments are helping extinguish the fire that has consumed nearly 47,000 acres according to officials.

Alma, Elba, Gothenburg, Axtell, Wilcox, Minden, Franklin, Eustis, Beaver City, Wilsonville, Cambridge, Lexington, Curtis, Alda, Chapman, Platte Valley/ Twin Loup mutual aid response team, Wood River Fire and Rescue, Cairo, Farewell, St. Paul, Dannebrog, Phillips, Grand Island Rural, Orleans and Stamford Fire Departments in Harlan CountyThe Buffalo County Wildfire Task Force, Amherst, Elm Creek, Gibbon, Kearney, Pleasanton, Wildland Incident Response and Assistance Team (WIRAT).

Roads closed as of 1:40 a.m., Saturday:

NE 89: Between U.S. 83 (9 miles west of Danbury) and NE 47 (3 miles west of Wilsonville).

US 6: Between US 82; East 6th Street (McCook) and US 283 (Arapahoe).

US 6: Between 5th Street (Arapahoe) and A Road (20 miles west of Atlanta).

NE 47: Between NE 89 and US 6; Patterson Street (Cambridge).

Another wildfire includes NE 23: Road closed due to a grass fire from NE 61 (17m E of Venango) to NE 25 (near Wallace)

511.nebraska.gov map at 2:11 a.m. Saturday
511.nebraska.gov map at 2:11 a.m. Saturday(Courtesy Photo)

Go to https://www.511.nebraska.gov/ for up-to-the-minute updates on road closings.

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