Several fires raged overnight Thursday and Friday morning across five counties in west central Nebraska, started by lightning.
A thunderstorm moved across the region late Thursday afternoon starting fires as it went. The first fire reports came in at 4 p.m. Mountain Time, an Ogallala dispatcher said.
Within just 12 hours, one fire that began north of the Otter Creek Lodge at Lake McConaughy burned an estimated 40,000 acres, incident commander Ralph Moul said.
That fire, and most of five others, were contained Friday morning.
Only one of the six remained uncontained by noon Friday -- the Eagle Canyon Hideaway Fire, south of Lake McConaughy toward Brule.
Bulldozers began blading containment lines above rough canyons at daybreak. As of noon, only the north side of the Eagle Canyon fire was uncontained but it was headed toward the lake, Moul said.
Fire crews worked through the night to protect as many as 100 homes and buildings in the path of the the Eagle Canyon fire. At noon Friday, Moul said that no buildings were reported lost "as far as we know."
Moul decided yesterday afternoon to activate a "wildline incident response team" through the Nebraska State Fire Marshal's office. They mapped a strategy and were ready to go to work before sunup, he said.
First line responders from more than 30 volunteer departments worked all night, Moul said, and most of them were able to take a break at 10 a.m. the next morning.
Firecrews watched the weather with a wary eye. There is a good chance of rain Friday evening but stout north winds are expected to accompany a cool weather front. The winds could fan flames, and lightning might start more fires, Moul said.
Al Berndt, assistant director of NEMA said he is working with Keith County firefighters and emergency managers to monitor the fire and assist in the response as much as possible.
Two National Guard UH60 Blackhawk Helicopters were dispatched from Lincoln Friday afternoon to help if needed, and 13 National Guard Soldiers were deployed.
One firefighter suffered minor heat injuries. The amount of food and water delivered to the command station at the Keystone-Leymone Fire Hall has been amazing, Moul said.
Another fire 14 miles north of Hershey was extinguished Thursday.
Two grass firefighter rigs from North Platte were dispatched to battle a fire north of Paxton along the Birdwood Creek, Battalion Chief Bill Kleinow said. He said Friday at 6 p.m. that the crews were making good progress there and the North Platte firefighters could return before dark, with luck.
The fires and their status at noon Friday:
• Otter Creek, north of Otter Creek Lodge on the north side of Lake McConaughy - 40,000 estimate acres. Contained.
• McKeag Fire - (17 miles north of Leymone & Lake McConaughy) - 3,000 acres. Extinguished.
• Eagle Canyon Hideway - (from Brule north to Lake McConaughy) 3,000 acres. 75 percent contained.
• Ackley Valley Fire - (part of Haythorn Ranch north of Lake McConaughy) - 6,000 acres. Contained.
• Parker Ranch - (location not reported) 350 acres. Extinguished.
• Glen Echo Fire - NE Keith County and SW McPherson Co. 7,500 acres. Contained, but hots spots remain in cedar trees along the Birdwood Creek drainway.
This report was updated, proofread and edited Friday at 6 p.m. To convey more information and/or photos, email firstname.lastname@example.org - Editor