LINCOLN, Neb. — In western Iowa and western Douglas County on Monday, firefighters were once again putting out grass fires, and their departments said dry weather is pushing crews to the limit.
Volunteer firefighters put out a grassfire near Crescent, and said it’s just the beginning of what will be a very busy grassfire season.
“Once the snow goes away, it’s just starting,” said Deputy Chief Ken Ward. “The weed-fire season is just starting in earnest right now.”
Volunteer fire departments across eastern Nebraska and western Iowa are bracing for a busy spring after a dry, mild winter. They said much of the area is becoming a tinderbox.
The lack of wind helped contain Monday’s fires, but the season as a whole will probably be a different story.
“It’s going to be pretty hellacious,” said Crescent Assistant Fire Chief Kevin Holben.
Many of the firefighters who fight grass fires are volunteers.
“We all have our jobs,” said Ward. “We all have to go back to our jobs. And that’s what it’s all about — the volunteers.”
“A lot of times your wife and your family, they just kind of have to expect that,” said Holben. “It’s just kind of comes with the duty.”
Both men said that, while they are busy, firefighting is something they enjoy.
The threat of a summer drought across Nebraska will come into clearer focus in the next two months, according to state climatologist Al Dutcher.
Dutcher spoke at a meeting of Nebraska’s Climate Assessment Response Committee. He said there is a concern that a severe drought in Texas may expand northward. The amount of moisture Nebraska receives through the end of April will determine the breadth of the drought, Dutcher said.
The current drought map shows severe drought in southeast Nebraska, with moderate drought across the southern half of the state and abnormally dry conditions in much of the Sandhills. Dutcher said drought is now a threat in the eastern third of the state instead of in the west.