A wildfire that exploded in size in drought-stricken central Nebraska has destroyed much of a youth campsite and led officials to evacuate a nearby village.
The Bovee Fire was initially reported as having burned around 100 acres early Sunday in the Bessey Ranger District of the Nebraska National Forest, officials said. By Sunday night, the grassland fire in the state’s Sandhills region had grown to about 15,000 acres, or around 24 square miles (62 square kilometers), according to the Nebraska National Forests & Grasslands.
None of the fire was contained by midday Monday, according to Travis Mason-Bushman, a spokesperson for the Rocky Mountain Complex Incident Management Team. However, a bulldozer was brought in to dig a containment line, and officials expected to have an update on containment later in the day Monday.
The Nebraska State 4-H Camp confirmed in a tweet that most of the camp’s buildings, including its main lodge and all of its youth cabins, were destroyed in the fire. Officials also evacuated the tiny nearby village of Halsey, which is home to about 65 people, and shut down a section of state Highway 2 as smoke from the fire cut visibility. The highway had reopened by Monday.
More than 100 firefighters were on the scene Monday, Mason-Bushman said, after air tankers were used Sunday to drop retardant and slow the fire’s spread, which was fueled by tinder-dry conditions and high winds. Conditions had improved Monday, with cooler weather and lighter winds, he said.
The fire was “likely human-caused,” the Nebraska National Forest said. Officials had not reported any injuries from the flames by midday Monday.
The U.S. Drought Monitor shows Thomas County remains in a severe drought.
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