On The Frontlines: Battling The Carter Canyon Wildfire

Aug. 2, 2022, 9 a.m. ·

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Fire crews made significant progress on Monday controlling the spread of a frightening wildfire that destroyed three homes and threatened many more in the Wildcat Hills area of Nebraska’s panhandle. Rugged terrain and dangerously hot temperatures made it very difficult work.

Over the rugged bluffs south of Gering, a Black Hawk helicopter hauling the last water of the day was only a silhouette against the grey afternoon haze. Gone were the billows of dark smoke seen covering the panhandle sky the day before.

The operations commander for the Monday night shift, Allan Michel, had good news for the fire teams looking for hot spots and flare ups.

"The situation is solid, but again, looking at tomorrow’s weather, were right back to where we were the last three days, so anything can happen," he said.

That came as a relief after the lightening-sparked wildfire made a terrifying run through Carter Canyon.

Saturday night through Sunday, bone dry conditions and persistent winds pushed flames across 13,000 acres of rugged terrain of the Wildcat Hills. The fire incinerated three homes. Only a chimney remained on one foundation.

By the end of Monday the fire moved through another two thousand acres, however, there were fewer areas the flames could easily spread along the canyon walls.

Throughout the day, fire crews assembled from 35 different volunteer fire departments cleared out or hosed down many potential fuel sources.

Incident commander Nathan Flowers, Gering’s fire chief, sent the night crews off with thanks from his department and people whose property they struggled to save.

"Your hard work and stuff is really paying off for these guys, so I ask you, we are almost there, so put a little more hard work into it because we are almost there. And that way we can get these guys back home," he said.

Burning timber could remain in some inaccessible areas of the canyon until there’s a decent rain. There’s a chance Tuesday of late afternoon Thunderstorms in the panhandle.

LISTEN: An extended interview by Bill Kelly with Operations Commander Allan Michel: