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Grass fire damages Lake Maloney homeTell North Platte what you think
Photo by Joe Chitwood
Burned, bare branches at the east end of the house, where roof shingles were damaged.
Photo by Joe Chitwood
A burned branch alongside the garage roof. (Click or tap on images to enlarge)
Photo by Joe Chitwood
A burned juniper fitzer across the front driveway from Bland's house.

A grass fire fanned by strong wind Monday damaged a house and detached garage at 2623 Prairie Zephyr Road, about a half mile west of Lake Maloney Golf Course.

Home owner George Bland said damage was limited to the roof of a detached double garage as well as the east end of his  home, which is built into a hill.

Also, he was pretty sure his air conditioner unit by the house was damaged.

The National Weather Service issued a Red Flag alert Monday, warning of the extreme danger of fire as winds gusted to nearly 50 miles an hour at the North Platte Regional Airport/Lee Bird Field.

Bland said the fire started near the north end of the golf course, about a quarter-mile east of his home. As the flames rapidly closed in, he and his son protected it with garden hoses before the fire department arrived.

The fire burned grass and scorched pine trees all around his home and garage.

“I had a garden hose out, spraying down the fire on the detached garage,” he said. “And I hollered at my son, and he got up on the roof and started spraying that end of the house.”

Bland said the buildings appeared to be out of danger by the time firefighters arrived.

“When they got here, I pretty much knew we weren’t going to lose the house,” he said.

As flames approached, the wind caused the fire to swirl in all directions around the house.

“When my son was on the east end, I saw smoke coming from the west end and was afraid that end was going to catch fire; but when I ran down there with the hose, I saw that it was staying away from the house.”

Bland’s son removed some shingles on the east end of the house that were burning.

"He tore them off and we dosed the roof with water,” Bland said.

Firefighters checked the attic when they arrived and everything was okay there, he said.

He said the wind just kept shifting, and “in a way, that helped us. In fact, if I hadn’t had those evergreens so close, the grass was burning slow and all of it would have been okay.”

Bland was glad he had mowed around the property earlier this year.

“I mowed about 10-15 acres because I wanted to get rid of some of the cedar trees," he said. "(So) the grass was only a few inches tall, instead of two-feet tall."

Bland also lost some trees a couple year ago in a previous grass fire.

“I started this spring, piling up some cedar trees that had burnt (then),” he said. “I lost about 1,500 cedar trees in that one and I pushed them into piles to clean things up.”

Bland obtained a burn permit and on Saturday, he burned some of the piles of trees, but did not believe smoldering embers from that started the fire Monday.

“The fire department said they thought an ember from that may have caused the fire,” he said. “But I don’t believe it, because it started upwind a long way from my burn and would have had to cover a lot of ground against the strong wind, so I am not real sure what actually caused it.”

He said the fire department did check his burn pile.

“They stuck their hands in there, found it hot to the touch and went out and blew some fire retardant on it, just to make sure,” he said.

He said he watched them apply the retardant and saw no embers. 

“It smoked a little when they did it, but there were no embers,” he said. “But they did write me up for a violation of my burn permit. I had a permit, but I didn’t call them Saturday morning when I started the burn. I didn’t know I was supposed to do that. I didn’t read the permit very closely.”

He said the department did a good job getting the fire under control, putting out smoldering trees before they flared up.

“They said they will come back later and check to make sure it is completely out,” he said around 4:30 p.m.

Bland, a retired engineer, said he and his wife have lived in their home for 32 years and have insurance that will cover the damages.


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The North Platte Bulletin - Published 3/6/2017
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