OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — UPDATED 5:30 a.m. March 11:
The Ponca Hills Volunteer Fire Department announced longtime firefighter paramedic Dennis Bender died while working to extinguish a large brush fire east of Fort Calhoun on Wednesday.
Bender, who served the fire department and the Ponca Hills community for 50 years, passed away as a result of a medical emergency.
Officials said Bender was among the first group of certified paramedics in Nebraska and at the time of his death was the senior paramedic in the state.
"We ask for your prayers for his family, firefighter family and friends," said Fire Chief Joel Sacks.
UPDATED 10:40 p.m. March 10:
3 News Now spoke with Ponca Hills Fire Chief Joel Sacks, who confirmed that the department lost a firefighter Wednesday. He said he needed to talk with the family before releasing more information.
On Wednesday night, the Ft. Calhoun Fire Department shared on Twitter that a volunteer firefighter with the Ponca Hills department was lost in the line of duty. The firefighter suffered a medical emergency while battling the brush fires.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Ponca Hills Volunteer fire department. Today they lost a volunteer firefighter in the line of duty who suffered a medical emergency during firefighting operations.— Fort Calhoun Fire (@fcfdfire) March 11, 2021
We ask that you keep Ponca Hills fire department in your prayers pic.twitter.com/DPwbrxhqJw
With high winds and dry weather, conditions are ripe for brush fires. Crews battled blazes at several spots around the metro this afternoon.
Near Blair, firefighters responded to calls of a house that was on fire. The flames burned dozens of acres of brush and severely damaged the home. Luckily, no one was injured.
Near Prague, a brush fire started by a farmer days ago was reignited, setting blaze to around three miles of fields in the area. The high winds pushed the fire across roads and close to nearby homes.
“Yeah, we were in the thick of it," said Ron Kadavy, who rents a nearby field. "I told the lady that lived down there to get ready to evacuate.”
After battling the flames for three hours, firefighters were able to get control of the fire without any buildings being impacted.
East of Ft. Calhoun, several fire crews were battling yet another brush fire.
The Ponca Hills Fire Department told us that fire was under control by the evening and that no buildings were affected.
We were also told that there was one firefighter who was taken by ambulance to the hospital during the event. The department later confirmed that the firefighter had suffered a fatal medical emergency.
This is a developing story and 3 New Now will have updates as we get more information.
Washington County Sheriff Mike Robinson shared this tweet near Fort Calhoun:
Large field fire east of Fort Calhoun. Several fire departments on scene pic.twitter.com/YfYfLgGTLj— Sheriff Robinson (@Sheriff929) March 10, 2021
The Fort Calhoun Fire Department shared this:
*Brush fire* County Road 34 and County Road 51 avoid the area and use caution in Calhoun multiple units still responding in pic.twitter.com/K19LmZDfH9— Fort Calhoun Fire (@fcfdfire) March 10, 2021
Fires also covered a wide area near Prague, Nebraska:
Another fire scorched several acres of field southwest of Lincoln and got very close to a house. Nearby homeowners sprung into action, using garden hoses to try and extinguish the flames. Fire crews were also there.
The gusty winds added fuel to the fire. The owner of the cornfield estimated roughly 20 acres burned.
There's no word on what started it. Fortunately, the fire didn't affect any homes.
Crews were also busy this afternoon near Blair.
There, neighbors called 9-1-1 after seeing smoke and fire coming from a home on County Road 36. The fire burned dozens of acres of brush. The house where the fire started was severely damaged, but no one was injured.
Many areas in our viewing area are under a red flag warning, which means conditions are extremely favorable for fires.
This includes Pottawattamie County.