Grass fire, gas leak keep firefighters busy Saturday

    A grass fire west of Champion and a natural gas leak in Imperial, both on Saturday, summoned the Imperial Volunteer Fire Department (IVFD). Fire Chief Doug Mitchell said the grass fire, west of Champion about four miles, was on Bob Rolfe ground. Rolfe’s son, Jim, had been burning brush that had collected under a row of cedar trees, and the fire got out of control as the wind increased. It spread into adjoining grass and burned an estimated five acres to the east.
    Mitchell said things could have been much worse had the fire not been stopped by the north-south Avenue 323 and about eight area residents with rakes and shovels. Jim Rolfe, who lives in California, had not acquired a burn permit prior to starting the fire, Mitchell said. He reminds all area residents there is a statewide burning ban in effect, and open burning can only be done with a permit issued by the fire department.
    Besides Mitchell, who can be reached at 308-882-8306, people can request burn permits from First Asst. Chief Brad Wheeler, 308-414-1788, or Second Asst. Chief Kelsey Weiss, 308-882-1644.
    Seven IVFD units and 16 firefighters were on the scene. Firefighters were called back out at 5:40 p.m. Saturday on a reported natural gas leak at Capitol Mobile Court. An unknown vehicle ran over a gas meter box behind Lot 20, Mitchell said.
    When the IVFD arrived, Black Hills Energy employee Stewart Weiss of Imperial was already on scene, and other employees had already been alerted in Ogallala. “The line was broken off and gas was spewing and leaking,” Mitchell said.
    IVFD remained on scene until the Ogallala staff arrived, and in the meantime, residents from several homes were evacuated, Mitchell said, with the help of Imperial police. To keep warm, several residents were kept inside  two Imperial EMS ambulances on the scene, he added. Once the Ogallala staff arrived to shut down the leak, several firefighters donned self-contained breathing apparatuses (SCBAs) with a charged water line as a precaution, Mitchell added.
    Black Hills Energy returned Sunday to complete repairs, Mitchell said. Fifteen firefighters responded to the Capitol Mobile Court call in six trucks. They were on scene for about two hours.

The Imperial Republican

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Imperial, NE 69033