OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Alyssa Sanders with the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency said this year’s wildfire season is ramping up.
"We were tracking 16 major fires in about 15 counties," Sanders said. "Some of those are the same fire that burned in several counties."
Sanders added the season essentially carried over from last year, and that's thanks to a drier than average winter.
"We’ve kind of been predicting that it’s going to be an interesting fire season with the low relative humidity, the higher temperature and this wind," Sanders said.
High winds and low humidity are the perfect storm for fires to spread and that’s just as true inside the city of Omaha as it is for rural areas.
"We’ve had an uptick as far as some fires, some grass weed fires and a few big structure fires as well," Scott Fitzpatrick, battalion chief of the Omaha Fire Department said.
Fitzpatrick said his department keeps a close eye on conditions when it’s this dry out.
"The guys look at the weather to make sure we know what we’re kind getting into that day," Fitzpatrick said. "Some of these fires can be wind-driven fires and we know nationally that that’s hurt or even killed firefighters."
Wildfires in Nebraska have already proven deadly in April. Two firefighters lost their lives battling the flames, the latest just this weekend when a retired fire chief was found on the side of a road in Southwest Nebraska overcome by smoke.
Fitzpatrick says the wildfire threat is closer to Omaha than many may think.
"Obviously the city of Omaha is a pretty urban setting, but we do have some pockets of western Omaha where we have potential for pretty big wildfires as well," Fitzpatrick said.
With this in mind, he says it’s important the public plays their part in preventing the spread of fires.
"Make sure we’re not throwing smoking material out the window when you’re driving," Fitzpatrick said. "Any spark like that could cause a weed fire during this time how dry it’s been."
Officials fear this dry spell could be here to stay.
"I don’t know that this is necessarily something we have never seen before," Sanders said. "It’s been a more active year and we’re expecting it to trend that way."