Nebraska Fire Risk Remains High
Wednesday, November 30, 2022
Nebraska has had a number of deadly and destructive fires this year, and nearly half the state remains in extreme or exceptional drought. If it is as windy this year as it was last year at this time, fire risk to life and property will continue to be high.
Tedd Teahon, district fire management officer for the Samuel R. McKelvie National Forest, said there is no longer a fire season; it's a year-round phenomenon.
One firefighter died fighting the national forest fire in Halsey, which burned nearly one-fourth of the largest hand-planted forest in North America. It is believed to have been human-caused, but remains under investigation.
Teahon emphasized a spark is all it takes in these dry conditions.
"That will start fires right now, if you throw your cigarette butt out," Teahon stressed. "Check underneath your vehicles, make sure you haven't caught something, something is dragging and so on. Anything that could start a spark."
Fires took the lives of three Nebraska firefighters this year, more than a dozen were injured, and one has been recovering in a Lincoln rehab center for over a month. Although people cause nearly 85% of all wildland fires, Teahon noted most fires in the Nebraska National Forest are caused by lightning strikes.
Teahon urged people to observe posted restrictions as well as the weather.
"You know, if you're coming out to the forest, a big deal is parking, so make sure you read your fire restrictions very well," Teahon advised. "Weather is a huge one, you know, if it's going to be super windy, maybe it's not a good day to go driving around at all."
With the ongoing La Niña effect, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts continued drought in the Midwest through at least January.
Teahon added winter brings increased challenges for firefighters.
"And the problem now is that it's getting below freezing, and fire trucks will start freezing up, you know, once the sun goes down," Teahon explained.
In addition to equipment failure, winter risks for firefighters include falls, hypothermia and frostbite.
Nat'l Forest information Neb. Tourism Commission 2022
Fire details U.S. Dept. of Agriculture 10/29/2022
Firefighters injured USA Today 04/24/2022
Wildfire causes U.S. Dept. of the Interior 03/08/2022
Winter outlook NOAA 10/20/2022
Cold-weather firefighting Provident Insurance 2022
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