Crete firefighters recovering after mutual aid for wildfires


Wildfires spread Oct. 23 in southwest Lancaster County, creeping into Saline and Gage counties as well, and causing voluntary evacuations in some areas.

At 1:58 p.m., Crete Fire and Rescue responded to a call for mutual aid from Hallam Fire to assist with a grass fire in Gage County.

Friend, Wilber, Dorchester and other area departments also responded, totaling 23 units from different communities with an estimated 100-150 firefighters on scene along with law enforcement.

The fire began at SW 86th and Apple streets. Extreme winds of 50 mph pushed the fire north to West Panama Road. Firefighters kept the blaze contained between SW 100th and SW 72nd.

One occupied trailer home was destroyed in the fire, along with several outbuildings and barns in the path. Significant damage surrounds the Olive Creek Recreation Center.

“Three responding firefighters suffered burn injuries of which two are from Crete,” James Yost, assistant chief of the Crete Fire Department, said. “One Crete respondent has mild to moderate burns and a second Crete firefighter sustained a serious, non-life threatening burn injury for which they are being hospitalized for treatment at a local burn unit.”

One of the injured firefighters was Brad Elder, and a benefit account for him has been opened at Pinnacle Bank. Anyone wishing to donate should reference the “Brad Elder Benefit Account” so the funds will be properly deposited.

Crete Volunteer Fire and Rescue also established a GoFundMe account – Brad's Medical Expenses – to support Elder, who has been an active member on the department since March of 2019. He is also a Professor of Biology at Doane University.

Crete Fire and Rescue remained on the scene until 3:30 a.m. on Oct. 24, and officials said the fires were under control at that point.

Several area farmers brought tractors with discs to plow up dirt ahead of the flames in an attempt to stop the spread.

Yost said Culligan of Crete provided drinking water, Farmers Coop provided a fuel truck, Norris Public Power responded and Emergency Management from Saline and Lancaster Counties were also on scene.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.