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Gering fire department records busy season
October 05, 2012 Jerry Purvis   

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Photo by Spectrum Photo Firefighters from multiple agencies, including Gering volunteers and Scottsbluff firefighters, were kept busy this summer with fires in the northern Panhandle and eastern Nebraska.

The firefighting activities of local departments extend far beyond the local communities they serve – their help extends to others across the state.

With the extremely dry conditions across the region during 2012, that help was needed as fires stretched the resources of many departments.

In March, the Gering Volunteer Fire Department was called to help with a fire that had broken out west of Bayard and burned a number of houses.

“The area didn’t have much snow that winter, so conditions were already very dry,” said Gering Fire Chief Jay Templar. “The 65 mph winds didn’t help our firefighting efforts.”

In June, the Cottonwood fire near Harrison again brought out the Gering department to assist other departments with fire suppression efforts. And just a month later, lightning strikes in north central Nebraska sparked fires that burned thousands of acres and some recreation facilities. Gering was again on the road, joining firefighters from Cherry, Keya Paha and Brown Counties, as well as from several municipalities.

In early August, Gering firefighters and five of their engines were called out again to Keith County to assist with several fires around Lake McConaughy.

The Panhandle area was ablaze again in late August and early September with the West Ash and Douthit fires in the Chadron and Crawford areas. Those fires caused the forced evacuation of many areas as the fire spread.

“For several years, we’ve been talking about trying to put together a strike team of engines from Scotts Bluff County,” Templar said.

“Each town contributes something so all the resources from one department aren’t being used all at one time. So far, it’s worked out very well.”

Templar said that despite the extreme drought, the Gering area didn’t have that many wildfires. He attributed it to the large amount of irrigated cropland in the area without much wide open range.

“We’ve also been lucky to not have many lightning strikes,” Templar said. “That’s what caused many of the bigger fires we fought this year. The fires start on open prairie and there isn’t anything to slow down the spread. And high winds can blow embers a half mile ahead of the fire.”

He added that one good thing that came from all the fires was that Gering firefighters got valuable experience in how to handle fires – in case drought conditions reappear in 2013.
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