Wildfire evacuations lifted, roads open, 25 miles affected

Nebraska wildfires leave one dead and three firefighters injured
Thank you for your service to your neighbors, community, and state.
Thank you for your service to your neighbors, community, and state.(Melanie Standiford)
Published: Apr. 24, 2022 at 11:42 AM CDT
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NORTH PLATTE, Neb. (KNOP) - Wildfires continue plaguing much of western and central Nebraska in a more active fire season than the area has seen in recent memory. In the fight to keep neighbors safe, one Cambridge man has given his life. Family members say he was going from house to house telling people to leave and get to safety when his vehicle got stuck, and he could not get away fast enough on foot.

This man who died trying to help his neighbors is known by those who knew him as J.P.

Paul Wood, Red Willow County Attorney, says John P. Trumble, 66, of Arapahoe Nebraska died Friday evening, April 22 at approximately 7:00 p.m. as a result of the wild fire in Red Willow County. Trumble was retired as The Cambridge Fire Chief, but was assisting with fire fighting efforts by acting as a spotter. Trumble’s vehicle was north bound on road 407 approximately seven miles southeast of Bartley, Nebraska when it left the roadway due to poor visibility from smoke and dust, where he was overcome by smoke and fire.

The Nebraska State Fire Marshal and Red Willow County Sheriff were on scene when Trumble’s body was located by firefighters at approximately 3:30 a.m. on Saturday morning.

Mr. Trumble’s family has been notified and arrangements are pending with Lockenour-Jones Mortuary of Cambridge.

No additional information is available at this time. The incident remains under investigation.

Three other firefighters are reported injured, with non-life-threatening injuries.

As of 10:00 a.m., Sunday, all wildfire evacuations have been lifted, according to the Nebraska Forest Service. They ask that people remain cautious due to blowing dirt and smoke still in the areas affected, sometimes causing dangerous driving conditions.

Wildfires that began Friday swept quickly from the Kansas board (Road 702 Fire) moving north toward Cambridge and other nearby communities, being fueled by high winds and dry grass. Towns on standby for evacuation, voluntary evacuation, and mandatory evacuation throughout the event.

Fire near McCook, Friday
Fire near McCook, Friday(Dale and Joan Stewart)
Near McCook, Friday
Near McCook, Friday(Dale and Joan Stewart)

Wildfires have been reported in at least 12 of the state’s counties since Friday. On Saturday, firefighters were battling them in Perkins, Hayes, Furnas, Red Willow, and Frontier counties, according to the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency. A fire north of Curtis, Saturday afternoon had local rural departments responding. That fire was dealt with by late Saturday afternoon. In Perkins County, volunteers continue working to keep the fire there from spreading.

Thick smoke in Perkins County
Thick smoke in Perkins County(Courtesy Photo)

Between dry air, high wind, and a storm with little rain and lots of lighting, the complex wildfire systems have exhausted those fighting to get it under control. Tiffany Hock, a firefighter with Holbrook Volunteer Fire Department, says everyone is exhausted.

The Nebraska National Guard deployed one hand crew, two UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters, one UG-72, and several ground-support trucks to help put out the fires, and the Wildland Incident Response Team sent specialists, the emergency management agency said on Saturday, all with help seriously needed by volunteer firefighters who live and work in these fire zones.

Crew members assemble the "bambi" water bucket on NE Army National Guard UH--60 Blackhawk in...
Crew members assemble the "bambi" water bucket on NE Army National Guard UH--60 Blackhawk in McCook.(Capt. Joshua Pryor)

Incident Command is set up in Cambridge at the Fire Hall. Donations can be taken there.

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