Nebraska wildfires burn 15,000 acres with critical fire weather expected this week across Corn Belt

More than 15,000 acres of farm and ranchland have burned across a Western Corn Belt state with producers facing more risks of wildfires this week.

Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) says there have been more than three fires burning across the Cornhusker state since Tuesday afternoon impacting at least six counties.

Sandhills rancher Barb Cooksley tells Brownfield conditions sparked a blaze on her ranch Wednesday morning. “Dry humidity and high winds, and we don’t have very much green up in the hills yet and we’re primarily a warm season grass with this native range.”

She says the cattle herd is healthy but lost about 100 acres of grass in Custer County. “Having it start in our winter pastures where had grazed, that helped with the fire load of grass that was down then where it would have been in pastures that we were saving for summer grazing.”

Cooksley says the loss of rangeland adds more pressure on feed supplies, but she’s been stockpiling hay. “One did thing we did have to focus on yesterday was saving a hay yard, which we did.”

NEMA has confirmed fires in Cherry County where more than 7,000 acres burned and caused an evacuation order for the village of Kilgore.  Other include: Garfield, Jefferson, Lincoln, Wheeler, Thomas, and Rock Counties.

Red flag warnings are in place Thursday for the entire states of Nebraska and Iowa, parts of Kansas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan.

A Red Flag Warning means that critical fire weather conditions are either occurring now or will shortly. A combination of strong winds, low relative humidity, and warm temperatures can contribute to extreme fire behavior.

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