Nebraska wildfires kill ex-fire chief, injure 15 firefighters


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Wind-driven wildfires have swept through parts of Nebraska, killing a retired fire chief and injuring at least 15 firefighters, authorities said Sunday.

The man who died Friday night was a retired Cambridge fire chief who worked with firefighters as a spotter in Red Willow County in the southwestern part of the state. That fire had burned more than 78 square miles (202 square kilometers) in Red Willow, Furnas and Frontier counties by Sunday afternoon.

The Nebraska Emergency Management Agency said firefighters were still working to contain the large blaze on Sunday, and officials did not have an estimate of how much of it had been contained.

Alyssa Sanders of NEMA said John P. Trumble, 66, of Arapahoe, was engulfed in smoke and fire after his vehicle left the road Friday due to poor visibility due to smoke and to dust. His body was found early Saturday.

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At least 15 firefighters were injured battling the blazes, including five injured in the blaze that killed Trumble, but a spokeswoman said the state agency did not have details of their injuries.

Fires have been reported in 14 counties across the state since Friday, including Perkins, Dundy, Burt, Butler, Scotts Bluff, Cheyenne, Duele, Blaine, Cherry, Brown and Thomas counties. The state agency said those other fires were extinguished or mostly contained by Sunday afternoon.

This image provided by the Nebraska State Patrol shows smoke from a wildfire, Saturday, April 23, 2022 near Cambridge, Neb. Several small towns, including Cambridge, Bartley, Indianola and Wilsonville in southwestern Nebraska and Macy’s in its northeast, have been forced to temporarily evacuate due to wind-driven wildfires.
(Nebraska State Patrol via AP)

The agency did not provide estimates of the total area that had been burned by all the fires or the number of homes or other structures that had been destroyed. About 100 calves were killed when a fire in Rising City burned down several calving sheds, and at least three fire trucks were damaged or destroyed in the fires.

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Sanders said his agency didn’t have all the details about the fires because local fire departments were handling the response to most of them.

Several small towns, including Cambridge, Bartley, Indianola and Wilsonville in southwestern Nebraska and Macy’s in its northeast, have been forced to evacuate temporarily because of the fires. Evacuation orders were lifted on Saturday.

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The Nebraska National Guard deployed three helicopters and several support trucks to help fight the fires.

In New Mexico, 20 wildfires continued burning across the state on Sunday, including one that had grown to consume 84 square miles (217.56 square kilometers) of land.


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