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A southern Nebraska wildfire that forced the evacuation of the community of Edison is still reported at 30,000 acres and 0% containment.
Photos of the blaze impacting the Gosper and Furnas counties showed hazy skies and dark grey plumes and the National Weather Service (NWS) stations in the state warned of dry and windy conditions.
Jodie Fawl, a spokeswoman for the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency, said 40 fire departments from around the region had responded to fight the fire.
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The Nebraska National Guard also sent two Black Hawk helicopters to drop water on the flames, which she noted had jumped the Republican River.
The Nebraska Emergency Management Agency said the fire sparked when strong winds blew a dead tree into a power line.
According to Fox Weather, several significant wildfires have already prompted evacuations in the Central Plains, including in Nebraska and Oklahoma.
While the evacuation order in Edison has since been lifted, the Nebraska State Patrol reported a crash during fire response on Thursday claimed the life of 54-year-old Elwood Fire Chief Darren Krull and injured Phelps County Emergency Manager Justin Norris.
“Our hearts are with all involved in this tragic crash, as well as those affected by the fire. Please keep Chief Krull’s family, friends, and community in your thoughts. Please also keep Justin Norris in your thoughts as well as he continues to undergo treatment,” the agency wrote in a Friday Facebook post. “The fire response remains active today. Please continue to stay away from the area while many crews continue to work.”
“Susanne and I are praying for the community of Elwood as they mourn the loss of Elwood Volunteer Fire Department Chief Darren Krull,” Nebraska Gov. Pete Rickets tweeted in response to the news. “Chief Krull died while serving his community in the line of duty. He is a true hero.”
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A release from the Nebraska State Patrol said the crash occurred at approximately 5:10 p.m. local time when the Ford Expedition Norris and Krull were in was “struck head on by a truck hauling water” on Highway 283.
Norris, 40, was transported to the hospital in Cambridge with life-threatening injuries before being transferred to Good Samaritan Hospital in Kearney and later to a hospital in Omaha. He was in stable condition at the time of the statement.
The truck driver, identified as 28-year-old Andries Van Aswegan, was not injured in the crash.
“The fire and smoke in the area had created zero-visibility conditions on the roadway at the time of the crash,” the authorities noted.
According to KMTV, the governor has issued a state emergency declaration, allowing state resources to be utilized.
Several residential and commercial buildings have been destroyed, according to the Forest Service.
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Schools in the area canceled classes on Friday.
The American Red Cross has set up a response team at the Arapahoe Senior Center.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.