Fire Near Melbeta 70% Contained At 4,318 Acres; Demobilization Beginning

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     Firefighters, buoyed by rain, have made good progress yesterday on the Smokey Fire, burning since Tuesday about 15 miles southeast of Gering in the hills near Melbeta.

      As of 3:00 pm yesterday, the fire was listed as 70% contained and had grown just 80-acres from Thursday night. The growth to 4,318-acres was credited to burnouts conducted to strengthen fire lines.

       Incident Commander and Banner County Fire Chief Tim Grubbs says it rained across the whole fire Thursday night, creating a relative-humidity of 90% and slowing the spread of the fire into yesterday. 

     Grubbs says the rain and a forecast for more rain allowed the demobilization process to begin yesterday, starting with the release of the 2 Nebraska Single-Engine Air Tanker planes. 

    The SEAT stationed in Valentine was released over the noon hour with the one from the Scottsbluff airport sent home at 7:00 pm.

    The two Nebraska National Guard Blackhawk helicopters remain in action, making water drops on hot spots identified by the Nebraska State Patrol’s drones.

    The state Wildland Incident Response Assistance Team and the Nebraska Type 3 Incident Management Assistance Team are scheduled to demobilize tomorrow. The Response team arrived Tues and the management team on Wednesday.

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