NORTH PLATTE, Neb. (KNOP) - The Votaw Road Wildfire near Wellfleet remains at zero percent contained, as of Friday morning. The firefighters continue to hold the perimeter at roughly 900 acres, according to NEMA and the National Forest Service.
The Nebraska National Guard continues to fly in buckets of water from Wellfleet Lake, while over 15 volunteer fire departments are monitoring the perimeter of the fire closely. These efforts could likely continue through the weekend and into Monday. The fire, while not blazing, must be monitored closely so that it is completely out before responders can safely leave the scene. With extremely dry conditions, one spark could start it all up again, allowing a continued fire to make its way to area grass and cedar trees.
When gauging a wildfire by its percentage of containment, here are a few things to consider.
A 95 percent contained wildfire sounds more comforting than a zero percent contained fire. After all, if it is in your neighborhood, that makes a difference to know how to react. It may help to understand that containment does not define the fire itself. It refers to the perimeter that firefighters create around a fire to keep it from spreading.
If a fire is at zero percent containment, such as the wildfire known as the Votaw Road Wildfire, it means that zero percent of the fire is surrounded by containment lines. In the Wellfleet scenario, this would include any physical barrier that would stop the fire from passing. In the middle of the open dry grassy area, the perimeter is being maintained by volunteer firefighters and the efforts of two Nebraska National Guard helicopters and their large buckets of water being drawn from area lakes. However, with dry conditions and wind, the potential for fire to jump any perimeter continues to be a threat. And so, the fire is considered zero percent contained.
Barriers include land that has exhausted all its fuel (already burned areas), trenches dug, or natural barriers like rivers or lakes.
Without those in place, the Votaw Road Wildfire cannot be considered contained until it is no longer a threat at all. Conversely, a fire can be 100 percent contained, and continue to burn for days or even weeks. It cannot go anywhere and there is no way it can jump a barrier, but the fuel inside the boundary must burn out. With miles of dry grass and cedar trees surrounding the fire, that is not the case in Wellfleet.
Credit for understanding and explaining zero containment goes to NEMA and area volunteer firefighters.