A fire raged north of Lewellen on Friday, claiming between 3,500 and 4,000 acres in the process. The Alliance Volunteer Fire Department was one of the 15 agencies that worked to battle the blaze.
At approximately 11:02 a.m., the Lewellen Volunteer Fire Department responded to the fire located north of Road 56A in Garden County.
David Dymak, chief of the Lewellen Volunteer Fire Department, said the cause of the fire is still under investigation, but that the conditions spurred the fire to swell. He said he contacted other agencies for mutual aid shortly after he saw the fire.
“I could see the fire from my yard,” Dymak said. “As soon as I got out of my yard, I started to call in mutual aid because the wind was blowing 35 miles per hour, and it was blowing from the northwest to the southeast. The fire was just building at a rapid pace. There was a lot of dry fuel out in front of it, and the relative humidity was pretty low. It could have been way worse. We were very fortunate.”
Dymak said the firefighters split the fire to prevent damage to buildings. The fire spread between the bluffs west of Blue Creek and the creek itself.
“When the fire came down off of the bluffs, it slowed down considerably. To be truthful, that saved us. We were prepared for it to jump the creek. We sent county maintainers down to the property on the east side of the creek to cut a fire line. We had fire department personnel down there ready to go in case it jumped over. We were very fortunate that when it got to the creek it started to move south along the creek,” said Dymak.
Firefighters extinguished the blaze by 5 p.m., though firefighters remained on scene to check for hot spots. Dymak said a couple of residences were evacuated, though, ultimately, no structures were damaged in the blaze.
“One residence has its yard burned on all four sides, but there were no burns to the residence,” said Dymak. “It came completely around their structure. As far as I know, there were no structures damaged. With all the firefighters and trucks here, everyone got home unscathed.”
Dymak said he is grateful for the aid from Alliance and the other departments for helping to halt the fire before it got worse. The other agencies that responded to the fire include: Big Springs, Broadwater, Brule, Chappell, Heart of the Hills, Hyannis, Keystone-Lemoyne, Lisco, Lodgepole, Ogallala, Oshkosh, Paxton and Racket.
Dymak encourages people to be cautious this season to help prevent fires.
“Hunting season is upon is,” Dymak said. “In Garden County, every section probably has a pickup driven on it at some point. We’ve got a tremendous amount of fuel from the rains we had all year. People just need to be extra careful. If people see smoke, they just need to hurry and call it in. It’s dry out there.”
A lot of behind-the-scenes effort went into fighting the fire as well, Dymak noted. He said he is grateful for everyone’s help, especially on a personal level.
“Through the efforts of all the firefighters, we were very fortunate,” Dymak said. “I’ve fought a lot of fires, and this is the first time I’ve ever had my own residence threatened by fire. I just want to thank every single person, firefighter personnel, county employee, everybody who helped. We owe them a debt of gratitude. The fire didn’t come across the creek, but had it come across the creek, it would have been three quarters of a mile from my house, and I’m not real sure we would have got it stopped.
“There were a lot of people who brought us drinking water and sandwiches,” said Dymak. “It’s just wonderful when a community comes together like that to do something of this magnitude. It goes a long way. The Tiger Den, a group of people who own the old high school there in town (Lewellen), they have a senior dinner every day, and they called me personally to say that when the fire departments are done, come down because they had a bowl of chili on.”
Dymak also recognized the Blue Creek Rural Fire District Board members for their support with providing training and equipment that the department needs.
“We’re grateful to have such a great board to work with,” Dymak said.