Wildfires wipe out acres of cropland, prairie

Fire rages in northeast Nebraska

With the continued unseasonably warm, dry weather, wildfires are being sparked all over the region by hot farm machinery in dusty fields full of crunchy plants.
Firefighters from Nebraska and South Dakota worked to contain a fast-moving wildfire Wednesday afternoon. Yankton Fire Department Assistant Chief Larry Nickles says there were at least ten fire departments working the fire in northern Cedar County, Nebraska.
“It traveled about a quarter mile and we were hoping to catch it up the road and we couldn’t, the wind was just driving it too hard,” Nickles says. “It jumped the road and went into a pasture and into another bean field.”
Nickles says they had to fight the terrain and gusty winds to get to the fire.
“The fire traveled about a mile and a half and was about a half-mile wide,” he says. It’s believed the blaze was sparked by piece of farm equipment working in a corn field.
The fire was about four miles southwest of Yankton and burned over 900 acres. Nickles says today’s conditions don’t look much better.
“I don’t blame the farmer for wanting to get in the field, the beans are ready to come out, in fact, they’re past ready,” he says, “by the same hand, we don’t want to jeopardize any homes or anything.”
Nickles says they have had four calls to field fires this week alone.
A wildfire swept through nearly 26,000 acres of pasture and farmland in central Nebraska earlier this week, causing millions of dollars in crop losses. The fire has been contained, but fire officials worry that it could flare again due to hot, dry conditions.
Another brush fire near Beatrice was likely started when material under a combine caught fire.
This week, the National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for much of Nebraska, describing critical fire danger, due to dry conditions, mild temperatures, low humidity and strong winds.
Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton
George Keltz, KODY, North Platte and Doug Kennedy, KWBE, contributed to this report.