The Aristocrat Fire, burning on Nebraska National Forest land about 3 miles south of Chadron, was estimated at 300 acres and 50% contained as of 10:00 Saturday morning.
The fire near the Spotted Tail Trailhead was cause by lightning Thursday night and reported Friday morning at 10:38.
Pine Ridge District Ranger Tim Buskirk says about 80 firefighters from local, state, and federal agencies remain on the fire with aerial unit assisting. Air support Friday included two single-engine air tankers based locally, a large tanker out of Rapid City, and a helicopter.
Buskirk says the fire is in rugged terrain burned by major fires in 2006 and 2012 with dead and downed trees from those fires making access and containment difficult. Some interior areas have been left to burn so crews can focus on containment lines.
Moderate north winds helped firefighters on Friday by pushing the fire away from Chadron, but Buskirk says predictions of high winds for Saturday and Sunday could challenge fire lines in some areas.
Buskirk says the U-S Forest Service appreciates “all of the support from our local volunteer fire departments, Dawes County, Nebraska Game & Parks Commission, and Nebraska Forest Service” received so far, but also asks members of the public to stay away from the fire area.
He said there were instances Friday when members of the public being too close to the fireline led to issues on using the aerial tankers and helicopter. Traffic safety was also a concern with onlookers lining Hwy 385 for a time before the Nebraska State Patrol asked them to leave.