KANSAS CITY, MO – Firefighters battling a large fire in northwestern Nebraska may get help paying certain firefighting costs from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
FEMA Region VII Deputy Administrator Arthur Freeman approved a request from the State of Nebraska shortly before 2 p.m. CDT Thursday for a federal Fire Management Assistance Grant for the Region 23 Complex Fire, which has burned more than 68,000 acres in two days in Sioux, Dawes, Sheridan counties in northwestern Nebraska. The fire has been burning both grassland and forest areas, including some of the Nebraska National Forest.
The grant authority provides funding on a cost-share basis for certain costs incurred by firefighting entities bringing in resources to help keep the fire’s impacts from causing a major disaster. FEMA does not provide actual firefighting equipment or personnel.
The State of Nebraska requested the grant assistance about 12:30 p.m. CDT on Thursday. At that time, the fire was threatening 102 homes in and around Chadron, Nebraska, population 5,860. The fire also was threatening ranch complexes; businesses; infrastructure, including two state radio communication towers; utilities, livestock and equipment in the area. Chadron State Park and the Pine Ridge Job Corps Center were being evacuated as a precaution.
The National Weather Service has issued Red Flag warnings for the area, which has been impacted by extreme drought, causing lower water tables and well levels. The fire started on August 28 from a dry lightning strike and is burning on federal, state and private land. Local volunteer fire departments, the Nebraska National Guard and federal firefighting resources are battling the blaze.
The U.S. Forest Service deployed a Type II Incident Management (IMT) team to Nebraska to assist with fire suppression/containment activities. The Nebraska Emergency Management Agency, Nebraska National Forest, Nebraska State Forest Service, Nebraska Park Service, Nebraska Department of Roads, Nebraska State Patrol, sheriff’s offices from Dawes and Sioux counties, and local municipalities are assisting in the fire suppression activities/efforts.
As of 7 p.m. MDT Thursday, fire officials reported that the fire was 10 percent contained. Weather conditions Thursday were in the high 80s to low 90s with a relative humidity of 17 percent. Similar weather is expected to continue Friday with higher wind gusts and potentially lower humidity.
The FEMA funding, provided through the federal Disaster Relief Fund once a baseline threshold is met, pays 75 percent of the state’s eligible firefighting costs under an approved grant for managing, mitigating and controlling designated fires. These grants do not provide assistance to individual home or business owners, or cover costs associated with infrastructure damage caused by the fire.
Eligible costs for reimbursement can include expenses for field camps; equipment use, repair and replacement; mobilization and demobilization activities; and tools, materials and supplies.
FEMA region VII covers the states of Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska.
Visit FEMA Region VII online at www.fema.gov/region7. Follow FEMA online at www.twitter.com/femaregion7, www.twitter.com/fema, www.facebook.com/fema, and www.youtube.com/fema. Also, follow Administrator Craig Fugate's activities at www.twitter.com/craigatfema. The social media links provided are for reference only. FEMA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies or applications.
FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.