HALSEY, Nebraska — Officials announced Tuesday that progress has been made in limiting a major wildfire in the Nebraska Sandhills that claimed the life of a firefighter while destroying a popular youth campground and threatening a small hamlet.
The Bovee Fire in the rural Thomas County in west-central Nebraska was 30 percent controlled as of Tuesday morning, according to a statement from the Rocky Mountain Complex Incident Management Team, which has assumed control of the incident.
Favorable weather conditions, including high humidity, temperatures in the 60s, and some precipitation, are aiding fire workers in containing a grassland fire that was ignited Sunday afternoon and grew to 15,000 acres, or around 24 square miles (62 square kilometers), in less than six hours.
The fire burned the Nebraska State 4-H Camp’s main lodge and cabins, along with an observation tower in the Bessey Ranger District of the Nebraska National Forest. Assistant Chief Mike Moody of the Purdum Volunteer Fire Department died on Sunday after having an apparent heart attack while fighting the fire, according to officials.
As smoke from the fire reduced visibility, officials ordered the evacuation of the nearby community of Halsey and shut down a portion of Nebraska Highway 2. By Monday, the highway was reopened. Tuesday’s announcement from the Rocky Mountain Complex stated that the evacuation order has been rescinded.
Officials have stated that the fire was “initiated by humans,” but have not disclosed the specifics of how it began.