Deadly Wildfire Still Burning in Southwest Nebraska

April 25, 2022, 8:20 a.m. ·

Cambridge Wildfire Sunday. A burned crumbled foundation of a building with a field and blue sky behind it.
A building lies in ruins after wildfires swept through the Cambridge area. (Photo by Will Bauer, Nebraska Public Media News)

A wildfire burning in southwestern Nebraska claimed the life of the former fire chief of Cambridge.

The Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) says 66-year-old John P. Trumble of Arapahoe died after his car went off a road and he was overcome by smoke and fire. Trumble was working with area firefighters as a spotter battling the Road 702 fire, which has burned more than 41,000 acres and destroyed six homes in Furnas and Red Willow counties.

Overall, the wildfire threatened an estimated 710 structures, according to NEMA. Fifteen other firefighters have been injured battling the fire, which is still 0% contained, as of late Sunday night.

Cambridge Mayor David Gunderson
Cambridge Mayor David Gunderson says progress is being made in fighting the wildfire. (Photo by Will Bauer, Nebraska Public Media News)

Despite that, Cambridge Mayor David Gunderson tells Nebraska Public Media News the fire situation is much better than it was two days ago, as the blaze is moving away from the city. He is cautiously optimistic about the fire's conditions because a quick change in wind can reignite the now dwindling fire.

"After two days of fighting it, we’re able to exhale today," Gunderson said Sunday afternoon. "We’re not out of the woods, but we can see the end."

Cambridge was evacuated twice over the weekend, but residents have now been told they can go back home. Firefighters from across Nebraska and from other states are all working to contain the blaze. An estimated 64 volunteer fire departments have responded to the fires in the two counties.

The Road 702 Fire is currently the fifth largest wildfire burning in the U.S. right now, behind fires burning in New Mexico and Texas. Another wildfire in Butler County killed 100 calves on a ranch. The fires are being fueled by heavy winds which, according to the National Weather Service, will continue for at least the next few days.

Video: This is drone video of the Road 702 Fire shot overnight by the Nebraska State Patrol -