Custer County Volunteer Firefighters Return Home from Hackberry Fire

Custer County Volunteer Firefighters Return Home from Hackberry Fire
Hackberry Fire August 2021. Photo by Ansley Fire Chief Travis Harrop

BANNER COUNTY–As the Hackberry Fire neared full containment by early last week, state officials transferred command of the response to the blaze back to local authorities.

News Channel Nebraska (NCN)reported on August 10 that–according to the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency and the Banner County Fire Department–an estimated 6,000 acres burned but was mostly contained by early last week.

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

Roughly 25 people from Custer County traveled west with eight different fire rigs to provide assistance. Custer County Emergency Manager Mark Rempe said local volunteers returned home last week.

Photo: Ansley Fire Chief Travis Harrop

“We received a request from the state to see if we had any available fire departments that could send any equipment up to assist them and we were able to find quite a few who were willing and able to go so we assisted in lining that up and sending them out there,” Mark Rempe told KCNI/KBBN.

Rempe told KCNI/KBBN he echoed Broken Bow Fire Chief Jason Baum’s statement from last week about the importance of helping fellow Nebraskans.

“You never know when it’s going to be you that needs it. The more help we can get the better,” Rempe continued. “Mostly our firefighters were sent there to give the locals a break so they could go home and get rest and do their normal daily lives for a day. We just assisted in making sure it [the fire] didn’t break out of containment.”

Ansley Fire Chief Travis Harrop sent some pictures of the firefighting efforts. He said five volunteers from Ansley went to the fire and told KCNI/KBBN “it’s good to be home!”

Photo: Ansley Fire Chief Travis Harrop

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, NCN reported.

Nebraska’s single engine airtanker (SEAT) along with two SEAT planes from South Dakota 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.