Officials say the nearly 19,000-acre Bovee Fire, burning since Sunday in the Sandhills near Halsey, was started by a 4-wheel UTV on a designated trail in the hand-planted forest but they’re not sure exactly how it happened.
The confirmation came during an public information update Thursday afternoon in Halsey and was clarified later by Brian Scott, a spokesman for the Rocky Mountain Complex Incident Management Team that’s in charge of the Bovee Fire effort.
Scott said in an email to the Nebraska Examiner that precisely how the fire was started was still an open investigation “and as time progresses more information will be made available.”
Incident Commander Dan Dallas also told the information meeting how the dry and windy conditions helped propel the fire just after it started about noon Sunday. He said the blaze jumped “fuel breaks” designed to stop or slow its advance.
Foam was sprayed on buildings at the Nebraska National Forest headquarters in Halsey to help save them, but couldn’t get to the state 4-H camp, where the main lodge and all the campers were destroyed. The Scott Lookout Tower was also lost.
Fireline now encircles the entire perimeter of the fire, but still wasn’t not officially listed as 100% contained yesterday because a few short sections weren’t fully secure. Closing those gaps was a priority yesterday as crews and engines continue to strengthen firelines and cool any remaining hotspots.
Dallas was expected to begin releasing some of the 227 personnel and equipment yesterday after shutting down the night shift as no longer needed and resting those personnel before deploying them elsewhere.
Mopup, patrol, and hazard mitigation are continuing while structure protection forces continue to assess and secure around structures, as well as remove hazard trees from roads and trails to improve safe access.
A cold front moved through yesterday with winds gusting to 25 mph, temperatures topping out near 60 and humidity up to 40%. Today calls for scattered showers, highs in the upper 40s, at least 60% relative humidity, and winds only 5-to-10 mph
Funeral services are today at 2:00 CT at Sandhills High School in Dunning for Purdum VFD assistant chief Michael Moody, who died of a heart attack Sunday fighting the Bovee Fire.