By Jan Schultz
The Imperial Republican
With just negligible rain over the weekend, dry conditions in the Imperial area have not improved.
You don’t have to tell that to the Imperial Volunteer Fire Department, as eight calls took them out the past week, with just one of them to aid another fire department.
However, that mutual aid call Saturday afternoon to the sandhills of northern Nebraska was the most intense and time-consuming, as seven IVFD firefighters joined more than 30 other departments in battling a huge grass fire.
Temperatures continue to blister this area as the 100-plus readings seem to be the norm anymore.
Fire Chief Nick Schultz said despite call after call, they are having “excellent response” by firefighters here.
“The guys have been taken away from work; the employers have been great,” he said.
All those calls also led up to a very busy time with the fireworks show Tuesday night, followed by the annual July 4 Family Fun Day hosted by the IVFD.
Here’s a recap of the past week of fire calls.
An overheated car pulled into the Alco Store parking lot kicked off a busy week of calls to the IVFD last Tuesday, June 26, at 9:45 p.m.
A report at the scene indicated the vehicle’s engine started smoking as it approached Imperial on Highway 6, so the driver pulled into the parking lot to cool it down. When it was started again, fire started in the engine, said Fire Chief Schultz.
The driver or vehicle occupants were not identified. The IVFD applied water and foam.
Less than 12 hours later, a baler on fire east of Imperial on 738 Rd., called the IVFD about 9 a.m. June 27.
Schultz said Randy Hileman was baling wheat straw in a field near the “Old Baker” place when a bale inside the machine started on fire.
Hileman had the presence of mind, Schultz said, to pull the baler out of the dry field onto the road where it was fully ablaze when the IVFD arrived. Firefighters extinguished it as best they could while still in the baler, then took it to a bare area in a nearby field owned by Vilas Smith to pull open the baler, remove the straw and fully extinguish it.
Two more calls came in last Wednesday, both caused by lightning.
At least three reports of a pasture fire a half mile from the Greg Hayes house, west of Imperial’s city limits, came in around 7 p.m. and after. Schultz said Lamar’s department assisted the IVFD.
Shortly after, a fire was reported south of the dam on Wayne Krausnick ground. Fire erupted from lightning that struck the dry grass on the east side of the road between the dam and cabin road, Schultz said.
Timely rain that evening actually extinguished that fire in very rugged terrain, he said.
Last Thursday, a small grass fire near a rental home owned by Darty Schilke, a half mile north of the Imperial Beef feedlot, was reported close to 12 noon.
Schultz said men were using a cutting torch on machinery when sparks started grass and debris on fire near a storage shed and garage. Two Imperial Beef water trucks were on the scene, and the fire was under control by the time firefighters arrived, Schultz said. It burned about 1,000 square feet of grass.
Saturday proved to be a very time-consuming day for Imperial firefighters.
A small grass fire on ground southeast of Lamar (741 Rd. and 318 Ave.) called the IVFD to start a busy day, but was handled by the Lamar department, Schultz said.
While enroute to Lamar, the IVFD was diverted to Mt. Hope Cemetery in Imperial, where a discarded cigarette is suspected in starting grass and trees on fire. A couple of cedar trees and grass on the north cemetery edge by its east entrance burned, Schultz reported.
They hadn’t been back to town very long when the mutual aid call from northern Nebraska was received, Schultz said.
Caused by lightning, the fire burned hundreds of acres north of Stapleton and near Ringgold. Schultz said the terrain was terribly rugged, and it was difficult to see at times with the heavy smoke.
The IVFD took its command car and one firefighting truck in the mutual aid call. Seven Imperial firefighters were gone to that call from 4 p.m. to 12 midnight.
Early Tuesday this week, the IVFD responded to a pickup fire about 7:30 a.m. at the Rod Johnson farm, southwest of Imperial. It was under control when the IVFD arrived, Schultz said, but they applied foam for added safety. An electrical problem in the vehicle was blamed.