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Western Nebraska wildfire prompts evacuations, burns homes

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GERING, Neb. (AP) — A wildfire that has forced evacuations and destroyed some homes in the Nebraska Panhandle grew to about 25 square miles (65 square kilometers) Monday, but firefighters were managing to limit the spread of the fire.

The blaze south of Gering, dubbed the Carter Canyon Fire, was reported Saturday evening and began as two separate fires in heavily treed areas of the Cedar Canyon Wildlife Management Area and Carter Canyon Public Land, fire and emergency management officials said.

Officials said tinder-dry conditions, rough terrain and 20 mph (32 kph) winds hampered efforts to control the fires, which merged over the weekend into one fire.

The fire had grown to about 25 square miles (65 square kilometers) and was burning in an area of grassland and large trees, said Ben Bohall, public information officer with the Nebraska Forest Service.

The fire destroyed three homes and damaged several more in the Carter Canyon community that was evacuated Sunday. No injuries were immediately reported.

About 200 people were fighting the fire, with crews from Wyoming and South Dakota helping those from Nebraska, Bohall said. About 35 fire departments from the area and aircraft were brought in to battle the flames.

By Monday, the fire was about 33% contained and wasn’t spreading significantly, officials said.

Fire crews will face difficult conditions as they try to control the blaze in the coming days. The National Weather Service forecasts continued winds and temperatures around or in excess of 100 degrees over the next six days, with only a 20% to 30% chance of showers and thunderstorms Tuesday.

The fire in an area suffering from moderate to severe drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

The Nebraska fire was burning at a time when other large fires were raging in the West, including a Northern California fire that has burned through nearly 87 square miles (225.33 square kilometers) in the Klamath National Forest. Another fire has grown to about 20 square miles (51.80 square kilometers) in the Flathead Indian Reservation in northwestern Montana and Idaho’s Moose Fire has burned more than 85 square miles (220.15 square kilometers).

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This story has been corrected to show that the fire size has grown to 25 square miles, not 25,000 square miles.

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