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Leaping flames and billowing smoke could be seen for miles last Thursday afternoon from a wheat and pasture fire just north of the Chase/Perkins County line. Rain eventually helped extinguish the fire which called several area departments. (Johnson Publications photo)

It’s very dry out there—multiple fires are proof

If there’s any question whether or not it’s dry in southwest Nebraska, the multiple grass fires in just one day last week should convince any doubters.
The largest of the fires last Thursday started mid-afternoon just north of the Chase/Perkins County line. While it was in the Grant Volunteer Fire Department (GVFD) district, firefighters from Imperial, Lamar, Venango and Madrid were also summoned.
The Perkins County wheat fire was reported about 2:40 p.m. last Thursday and was the first of eight fires the Imperial Volunteer Fire Department (IVFD) was summoned to over a two and a half hour span that day.
The seven other fires were all started by lightning, said Imperial Fire Chief Doug Mitchell. Luckily, rainfall that came with the lightning extinguished most of them.
GVFD Fire Chief Don Softley said the Perkins County fire spread very quickly after being started by a John Deere S680 combine near Roads 327 and 751.
Softley said they had a difficult time getting water to the base of the flames, as the intense heat was adversely affecting the firefighters. While continuing to battle the flames as best they could in triple digit temperatures, the skies opened and began sending sheets of rain, and eventually pea-sized hail.
Softley, who has been a firefighter for almost 40 years, said, “In all my life, I’ve never been a part of a crew to fight a fire in a hail storm.”
 The heavy rain extinguished the flames, which Softley said was a huge blessing, as the fire would have been extremely difficult to contain.
Imperial sent three trucks and 10 firefighters to the mutual aid fire in Perkins County.
The fire burned approximately 100 acres of irrigated wheat, and 60-80 acres of pasture.
The driver of the combine suffered burns to his arms and a possible foot injury. He was treated at Perkins County Health Services and life-flighted to Western States Burn Center at the North Colorado Medical Center in Greeley, Colo. A GVFD firefighter also received minor burns.
It was an intense afternoon for the area departments, with 16 fires reported in Perkins, Chase and Keith Counties last Thursday afternoon.
Seven other IVFD calls
While rain also helped extinguish some of them, seven other fires last Thursday afternoon were reported in the IVFD district, said Fire Chief Mitchell.
He said high winds and lightning came up while they were on the mutual aid call.
About 3:40 p.m., while still in Perkins County, the first grass fire was reported in Imperial’s district, followed by six more calls in the northwest and northeast parts of Chase County.
Mitchell said as they hit the highway east of Grant to get to the fires, they could see smoke in several locations in northeast Chase County. He then requested mutual aid assistance from the Wauneta, Madrid, Grant and Venango departments.

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