RUSSELL -- Fire crews from several departments worked through Friday evening to contain a grassfire that spread rapidly due to very dry conditions and strong wind gusts.
The fire started a few miles east of Russell in a rural area near 189th Street and Balta Lane.
“It covered several miles,” said Keith Haberer, Russell and Ellsworth county emergency management coordinator.
It has not yet been determined exactly how many acres were charred, but the blaze was large enough to be seen on the National Weather Service’s satellite system.
A red flag extreme grassland fire warning had been issued for Russell County from noon to 6 p.m. Friday due to wind gusts of up to 40 mph and relative humidity as low as 24 percent. The National Weather Service warned any fires that developed Friday would spread quickly and be difficult to control.
The fire was reported at 4 p.m. and largely was contained by 5 p.m., though crews remained on scene monitoring hot spots until close to 9 p.m., Haberer said.
No structures were damaged in the fire and no firefighters were injured, he said.
Crews from all Russell County fire districts responded, coming from Grant Township, Bunker Hill/Milberger, Gorham, Dorrance, Lucas and Paradise/Waldo/Natoma. They were assisted by crews from Osborne County Fire District No. 2, Plainville, Sylvan Grove and Russell city.
The cause is still being investigated and has not been determined, Haberer said, offering a strict warning for those who might consider intentionally setting grass fires. He noted that type of instance recently occurred in Rooks County.
“I tell people if we catch you and you’re setting fires, it is some strict penalties including up to jail time. So please do not set fires,” he said. “Everybody who’s out there is volunteer and they have to leave their day jobs to go fight a fire. And if we have somebody who gets injured or hurt, there’s no amount of penalty that’s going to cover that.”
The entire region remains at elevated risk for grass fires due to ongoing dry and windy conditions.
“We try and tell people not to do any burning or welding or cutting out in the open,” Haberer said. “Even watch your vehicle. Don’t drive out into the grass with a vehicle because it could start on fire so easily.”