Banner County Fire Continues To Grow, More Help On The Way

Photo – Tim Newman

    The Hackberry Fire southeast of Harrisburg in Banner County continues to burn out of control, but more help is on the way for firefighters.

Gov Pete Ricketts Friday issued a state emergency declaration, clearing the way for state and federal aid.

      Region 22 Emergency Management Director Tim Newman says the Hackberry Fire is of unknown origin and was reported around 7:00 Thursday night. There have been no injuries and no houses are currently in danger. 

       It was estimated at 2,500 acres at midday Friday, but Newman says about 3,000 acres were burned for the day. A wind shift blew the fire straight back and forced the main staging area for firefighters to be moved twice.

      Newman says the fire has moved into both timber and pastureland, at one point threatening cattle before ranchers were able to get in and herd them out. He knows of no cattle losses or injuries. 

     The Banner County Commissioner submitted an emergency declaration Friday morning to NEMA, the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency, and it asked the governor to approve it – which he did in the afternoon.

       Newman says the order means that the local and state agencies that initially responded have turned over management of the fire to the Nebraska State Emergency Response team with a Type 3 Incident Management team en route. 

    A pair of Nebraska Army National Guard Blackhawk helicopters with 780-gallon water buckets arrived on the scene Friday afternoon, joining 3 SEAT, single-engine air tanker, planes with a large air tanker requested out of Colorado under a multi-state compact.

      The Wildland Incident Response Assistance Team (WIRAT) has been requested to provide expert knowledge and assistance to local first responders. 

       Two Strike teams from the North and Southwest regions have been called in to provide support with a third Strike team from Northeast Colorado put on standby. 

      Fire weather is expected to remain elevated as dry conditions continue into the weekend.