30,000 Acres Burned in Southwest Nebraska Wildfire; Volunteer Fire Chief Killed

April 8, 2022, 11:36 a.m. ·

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The smoke from the massive fire in Gosper and Furnas counties. (Photo courtesy Nebraska State Patrol)

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A massive fire in southwest Nebraska is still not contained as of Friday afternoon, according to state officials. Reports indicate the blaze ranges 30 miles long and 5.5 miles wide – stretching from Gosper to Furnas counties.

The National Weather Service estimates at least 30,000 acres burned in the area. The official containment numbers from state officials remains at 0% as of Friday afternoon, according to emergency management spokesperson Alyssa Sanders.

NWS Hastings -- Gosper & Furnas Co Fire
The NWS office in Hastings estimates potentially 30,000 acres burned. (Image courtesy NWS Hastings)

The fire started accidentally in a ditch just after noon Thursday when strong winds blew a dead tree into a power line. The winds helped rapidly spread the blaze, officials said.

The fire missed the Furnas County towns of Arapahoe and Edison. Officials lifted the evacuation orders for Edison earlier Friday afternoon.

“Responders are establishing a perimeter, working hot spots and cooling the interior of the fire,” said incident commander Brian Sisson in a statement. “We are appreciative of all the efforts the firefighters are making to work this fire. We also need thank the community for their expressions of support.”

Official estimates tally eight homes and 48 other buildings damaged in the blaze. At least 40 fire departments and 10 additional agencies responded to the ongoing fire. Surrounding community schools – Arapahoe and Southern Valley – canceled class Friday.

Chief Darren Krull headshot
Chief Darren Krull (Photo courtesy Nebraska State Patrol)

Elwood Fire Chief Darren Krull died Thursday in a crash while responding to the fire. The state patrol said Krull was one of three people responding to the wildfire when two vehicles collided Thursday evening on Highway 283 near Arapahoe.

Investigators said 54-year-old Krull was in an SUV with Phelps County Emergency Manager Justin Norris when they hit a truck hauling water. The volunteer fire chief died in the head-on crash.

The 40-year-old emergency manager was taken to a hospital with life-threatening injuries. He's now in stable condition in an Omaha hospital. The water truck driver was not hurt.