An expert on emergency preparedness says wildfires pose particular challenges not seen during other disasters.
Last week’s hot, dry weather caused the fires in the Niobrara River valley to spread, burning 117 square miles of land. Pat O’Neil, director of UNO’s emergency management degree program, says wildfires are unlike disasters such as floods because there can be little warning.
And he says in small counties or towns such as those affected by last week’s wildfires, much of the response depends on local volunteers. "Everything starts at the local level and the immediate responders, if they can handle it, then it’s fine. If the magnitude increases then you’re dependent on letters of agreement, memorandums of understanding, and cooperative training among the municipalities, and counties, and then potentially the state or the federal government depending on the magnitude."
O’Neil says events such as this year’s wildfires, and last year’s Missouri River flooding, give emergency management officials the tools to prepare for future events.
The Nebraska Emergency Management Agency expects the wildfire currently burning in north-central Nebraska will be fully contained this week.