Hackberry Fire response command transferring back to local authorities

BANNER COUNTY — With the Hackberry Fire nearing full containment, state officials are transferring command of the response to the blaze back to local authorities. 

According to the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the Banner County Fire Department will have authority. In the same update, NEMA says incident command and local officials report the fire to have burned an estimated 6,000 acres.

The latest report from NEMA, published late Tuesday morning, says local officials and incident command estimated the blaze to be 95 percent contained as of Monday afternoon. 

This contradicts a report from Tuesday morning where multiple NEMA officials told NCN the blaze was 80 percent contained.

Firefighters are monitoring hot spots while aircraft remain on standby should they be needed again. 

Authorities say 20 volunteer fire departments with 120 engines responded to the fire. Crews from Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming and South Dakota all pitched in. 

The Nebraska National Guard sent 12 soldiers with three helicopters. After arriving Saturday, the crews flew over 140 flights and dropped about 141,000 gallons of water on the fire. 

Nebraska's single engine airtanker (SEAT) along with two SEAT planes from South Dakota also made drops over the fire. A large airtanker from Colorado also assisted. A Colorado-based aircraft with infrared and color sensors flew over the blaze to help ground crews to identify where suppression was needed the most. 

The State Fire Marshal's Office, Nebraska Forest Service, Banner County and Scotts Bluff County roads departments and the Nebraska Department of Transportation all helped with response efforts. 

The Firefighter Ministry assisted by delivering food, water and other donations and supplies to the crews. 

The fire began in Banner County the evening of Thursday, Aug. 5, before stretching into Morrill County. Officials say it was started by lightning. By Saturday, the fire had spread to an estimated 5,500 acres burned. Since then, the flames progress has slowed significantly, burning another estimated 500 acres since late Saturday.