Severe weather and high winds have caused the Niobrara River Canyon Fire to nearly double in size on Monday.
Region 24 emergency management director Doug Fox says that the lightning-sparked fire is now burning an estimated 200,000 acres of land.
Fox says a thunderstorm rolled through the area Monday afternoon sparking separate fires across the dry landscape. Fox said he had thought the fire was 50% contained Monday afternoon, but on Tuesday Fox is unsure how much control crews have on the fire.
The town of Sparks is on evacuation watch as crews from 40 different fire departments work around the clock to contain the blaze.
Jean Bucholz from Mitchell, SD, has family that left their ranch near Springview Monday night. Bucholz says fire crews were able to push the fire back South of Nebraska Highway 12. Jean says her brother and nephew went back to the ranch to make sure things were ok and to help fire crews where they can.
Crews are working on burnout efforts but are finding the dry canyon landscape difficult to navigate and get on hotspots. There are three Nebraska National Guard Blackhawks and a C-130 assisting firefighters on the ground.
Fox says the biggest factor is exhaustion and fatigue, as the heat is making things difficult on firefighters. Fox says a few firefighters have been treated for heat exhaustion and at least two firefighters were sent to the hospital in Valentine for injuries they sustained after being thrown from a fire truck.
So far, 10 buildings have been razed in Norden, several people have also evacuated their homes near Springview. Fox says at this time no additional buildings or homes have been lost.
Fox says more than 300 firefighters are doing their best to stay ahead of the fire, but they expect the high winds to change later this afternoon, which could complicate firefighting efforts.
Stay with KSFY news as we will continue to update you on the Niobrara River Canyon Fire on Facebook, KSFY.com, and KSFY News.
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