www.johnsonpublications.zenfolio.com Brooke Pankonin | Johnson Publications
Flames rage out of control at a wheat fire southwest of Grant on Thursday, July 6.  A rain/hail storm extinguished the flames after destroying approximately 100 acres of irrigated wheat and 60-80 acres of pasture. 

GVFD responds to a record 8 fires

By Brooke Pankonin

Grant Tribune-Sentinel

A wheat fire southwest of Perkins County at 2:40 p.m. was the first of eight fires the Grant Volunteer Fire Department responded to in the span of 2 1/2 hours on Thursday, July 6. 

Started by a John Deere S680 combine near Roads 327 and 751, GVFD Fire Chief Don Softley said the fire started and spread very quickly. Venango was called to mutual aid immediately, and then Imperial, Lamar and Madrid departments were paged. While en route, Madrid was called to their own fire southeast of Madrid, which was extinguished by rain upon arrival, according to Madrid Chief Mike Lee. 

Softley said they had a difficult time getting water to the base of the flames, as the intense heat was adversely affecting the firefighters. While continuing to battle the flames as best they could in triple digit temperatures, the skies opened and began sending sheets of rain, and eventually pea-sized hail. 

Softley, who has been a firefighter for almost 40 years said, “In all my life, I’ve never been a part of a crew to fight a fire in a hail storm.”

 The heavy rain extinguished the flames, which Softley said was a huge blessing, as the fire would have been extremely difficult to contain.

The fire burned approximately 100 acres of irrigated wheat and 60-80 acres of pasture. 

The driver of the combine suffered burns to his arms and a possible foot injury. He was treated at Perkins County Health Services and life-flighted to Western States Burn Center at the North Colorado Medical Center in Greeley, Colo. A GVFD firefighter also received minor burns. 

Fires ensue due to lightening

While fighting the wheat fire, another fire was reported 10 miles north of Grant. Ogallala was sent to mutual aid since GVFD was fighting the wheat fire. Softley said the dispatchers were being proactive and also paged Paxton and Brule. However, the reported fire was blowing dust mistaken as smoke. 

Meanwhile, another fire was reported near Roads 765 and 332 northeast of Grant. Ogallala responded and Paxton and Brule were sent back. 

Ogallala began fighting the grass fire caused by lightening until GVFD arrived. Ogallala was called back to a fire on the interstate.

Up to four fires were also reported north of Imperial Beef and two east of Imperial Beef, all due to lightening. 

When Elsie and Madrid units arrived at the second fire, Softley sent two trucks to Imperial Beef, but the fires had been extinguished by the rain upon arrival.  

It was an intense afternoon for the area departments, with 16 fires reported in Perkins, Chase and Keith Counties in 2 1/2 hours. 

The Grant Tribune-Sentinel

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Grant NE 69140