Nebraska wildfires kill ex-fire chief, hurt 11 firefighters

Wind-driven wildfires sweeping through parts of Nebraska killed a retired fire chief and injured at least 11 firefighters, authorities said Sunday.

The man who died Friday night was a retired Cambridge fire chief who was working with firefighters as a spotter in Red Willow County in the southwestern corner of the state. Alyssa Sanders, of the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency, said 66-year-old John P. Trumble, of Arapahoe, was overcome by smoke and fire after his vehicle left the road because of poor visibility from smoke and dust. His body was found early Saturday.

Sanders said 11 firefighters have been injured battling the blazes, but she didn’t say where they were injured or how severe their injuries were.

Blazes have been reported in 12 counties in around the state since Friday. The state agency said they were still burning Saturday night in five counties in Nebraska’s southwest: Perkins, Hayes, Furnas, Red Willow and Frontier. The agency didn’t provide estimates of the total area that had been burned or the number of homes or other structures that had been destroyed.

Sanders said her agency didn’t have all of the details about the fires because local fire departments were managing the response to most of them.

Several small towns, including Cambridge, Bartley, Indianola and Wilsonville, in Nebraska’s southwest and Macy in its northeast, were forced to temporarily evacuate because of the fires. The evacuation orders were lifted Saturday.

The Nebraska National Guard deployed three helicopters and several support trucks to help battle the blazes.

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