North-Central Nebraska Wildfires 100 Percent Contained

Authorities kept watch over parched grass and vegetation near the site of three contained wildfires in north-central Nebraska as the fire danger remained high.

Firefighter spokeswoman Susan Ford said 100 percent containment was declared Sunday night. A couple of fire engines and some firefighters would remain on duty, however, watching for flare-ups.

"It's pretty dangerous out there," Ford said, citing low humidity and expected temperatures approaching 100 over the next few days. "When you walk in the grass, it crunches like potato chips," she said.

Linda Hecker, another spokeswoman, said that because of the drought, people should remember that threat of fire will remain high throughout the region for at least several more weeks.

"Fire season is still far from over," Hecker said.

Lightning sparked the three fires on July 20. They destroyed at least 14 homes and 17 outbuildings. Only three injuries were reported.

The main blaze, which officials called the Fairfield Creek fire, burned more than 104 square miles north and south of the Niobrara River in Keya Paha and Brown counties, and part of Cherry County. To the east, the Wentworth fire covered nearly 10.6 square miles, while the Hall fire blackened more than 4 1/4 square miles.

The fires and the effort to contain them interfered with one of the region's important businesses: tourism. Tens of thousands of people visit the Niobrara River each summer to float down the river in a canoe or tube.

Fire officials shut down part of the Niobrara River for several days last week because helicopters were dipping large buckets into the river. Outfitters hope tourists will return in large numbers with the fires contained.

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admin 01 Aug, 2012

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