Hazards to be aware of when returning home from wildfire

Some southwest Nebraska families are returning to homes that reek of smoke

CAMBRIDGE, Neb. (KLKN) – The Road 702 fire in southwest Nebraska is now about 75% contained, after burning around 42,000 acres since Friday.

Some families are finally able to return to their homes, but many are dealing with a strong smell of smoke.

“Their clothes smell like smoke, the house smells like smoke, so that is something that has to be cleaned out of there,” said Katie Schutte, a resident of the area. “It’s not good for their health, it’s not good for kiddos.”

Some may be able to open a window, but with gusty winds and fires still burning, that’s not always an option.

Many are asking to borrow air purifiers for those who need them.

There are also people helping to clean homes.

“There is a group of people going around helping to clean houses,” Schutte said. “I know they couldn’t get into houses until today because the fires are still going, and then they had to wait for insurance adjusters and things, so hopefully people will start cleaning houses and getting people back in their homes.”

Getting that smell out can be a lot of work.

“Do a lot of internal cleaning, do the rugs, maybe the drapery if you have it,” said Terry Krasko of the Rocky Mountain Complex Incident Management Team, which is helping fight the fire. “If it’s really, really bad, you may have to consult a company that specializes in restoration. It just depends on how much actually came through your physical dwelling there.”

When returning home, do a few checks around the residence for any hot spots or embers.

“Check your eaves and gutters,” Krasko said. “If a spark has come down, and it may have rolled down into your gutter, and if there is leaves or needles in those gutters, you want to make sure that you’ve cleaned them out and there is nothing hot in there because that’s another source. It could sit there and smolder for a long time, and then all of a sudden, the wind blows up, and you can have a fire starting right off the eave line.”

Wildlife may be displaced and running from fires looking for food and water, so don’t be surprised to see deer eating your flowers or grass.

Krasko said they love to munch on rose bushes.

“If they are looking for food, sometimes they are looking for food more than they are paying attention to traffic, so up and down the roads, just be a little more mindful that they might not be paying as much attention to a car as they normally would.”

Many items are needed for families in the area, but feeding and taking care of livestock shouldn’t be forgotten.

“There is a huge need for feed for cattle and horses, hay,” Schutte said “Veterinary supplies is something that often doesn’t get talked about or thought of.”

Follow the links if you want to donate to help with hay and feed or with overall fire relief.

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