What began with a lightning strike Friday morning has become a raging 100,000-acre fire burning on both sides of the Niobrara National Scenic River (NSR) in mixed Ponderosa Pine and Eastern Red Cedar forests and prairie rangelands.
On Saturday, river use was closed downstream of Stans Landing in Eastern Cherry County. Sunday the closure was moved upstream to Smith Falls State Park. Public access on county roads is curtailed to support firefighter access.
Extreme drought conditions coupled with high heat, low humidity, additional dry lightning strikes and variable winds are hampering control efforts. The fire is estimated to be 20% contained as of Sunday morning.
A Type II incident management team has been requested to coordinate firefighting efforts among local, county, state, and federal responders already in the area. The fire response has been managed by emergency management officials from the three affected Nebraska counties with resources from over 50 fire departments, 3 to 5 National Guard Blackhawk helicopters with “Bambi” buckets, and 1 air tanker out of Rapid City, SD.
Niobrara NSR staff are working closely with county officials to In addition, the park web, Facebook and Twitter pages are being updated to provide public information on the fire as it becomes available.
The National Park Service owns no land along the Niobrara NSR. The unit is managed through partnerships with private and state landowners with the NPS facilitating cooperation among many stakeholders as well as providing expertise in Resource Management, Visitor and Resource Protection, and Interpretation.