Cambridge, Nebraska – Wind-driven wildfires engulfing parts of Nebraska have claimed the life of a former fire chief and injured at least 15 firefighters.
According to the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency’s Alyssa Sanders, John P. Trumble, 66, died when his car went off the road due to poor visibility on Friday.
Trumble, a former fire chief from Cambridge, Nebraska, was working as a spotter with crews in Red Willow County, where the flames had burned more than 78 square miles by Sunday afternoon. According to the authorities, his body was discovered early Saturday morning.
In the last few days, there have been wildfires in at least 12 of the state’s counties.
Although five of the 15 known injured firemen were involved in the incident that killed Trumble, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) was unable to provide immediate status updates on any of the injured. However, it was later reported that none of the injuries were deemed life-threatening.
As of late Saturday, Corey Mead, a forecaster with the National Weather Service, said that a powerful storm system had delivered “extremely strong winds” to Nebraska and that the same system had drawn dry air from the high plains of Colorado and New Mexico.
“Grasses are just beginning to turn green. However, there’s a lot of tall grass that’s still dormant from the winter, so that tall grass is very dry and serves as fuel for fire ignition, whether it’s downed power lines due to the strong winds or even lightning associated with storms,” said Mead.
The Indiana National Guard sent a number of helicopters and vehicles to help put out the fires, while the Wildland Incident Response Team sent experts to a number of places.
According to the US Forest Service, the 21,000-acre Tunnel Fire near Flagstaff, Arizona, was only 3 percent contained as of Saturday. The cause of the fire, which began on April 17, is still under investigation.
On the other hand, there were 20 wildfires in New Mexico on Sunday, including one that had spread to an area of 84 square miles.