Banner County's Smokey Fire grows to 3,700 acres, affecting air quality

Sept. 15, 2022, 2:36 p.m. ·

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A Gering Fire Department truck moves through flames from the Smokey Fire burning in Banner County. (Photo by Gering Fire Department)

A wildfire has engulfed 3,700 acres of land near the panhandle town of Gering, Nebraska. As of Friday morning, the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency said the fire was 62% contained, but extreme fire danger remains heading into the weekend.

Jodie Fawl, NEMA's public information officer, said the fire is affecting the air quality near the towns of Gering and Scottsbluff.

While NEMA initially announced voluntary evacuations Tuesday, no homes have been damaged and there are no reports of injuries. The containment percentage – 62% as of Friday afternoon – means that portion of the fire has a safe perimeter established around it.

Earlier this week, more than 30 volunteer fire departments and multiple state agencies were battling the Smokey Fire, including help from South Dakota, Wyoming and Colorado. Some of those crews packed up Friday as progress is made in certain areas, Fawl said.

“It’s more or less a little of an adrenaline rush initially,” said Hunter Baillie, who works with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, as he described overnight work at the scene of the “Smokey Fire” in Banner County.

Baillie said he helped Tuesday evening through Wednesday morning, when the fire was flaring up sporadically.

“We went from moments of sitting around for two hours to non-stop action for three or four hours,” he said.

It's fairly common for crews to monitor and quench wildfires overnight, Ballie said.

The "Smokey Fire" ignited a little more than one month after the "Carter Canyon Fire" tore through more than 15,000 acres and destroyed 11 structures and two homes in a nearby area.

Aerial map of the where the fire has burned.
Aerial view of the fire area. (Photo courtesy of Nebraska Emergency Management Agency)
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Volunteer firefighters with the Gering Fire Department work on preventing flames from further spreading in Banner County's Smokey Fire. (Photo by Gering Fire Department)