- Associated Press - Thursday, March 27, 2014

ST. PAUL, Neb. (AP) - Firefighters are working to contain wildfires that charred crop fields, rangeland and pasture, including one that blackened nearly 11 square miles in central Nebraska, officials said Thursday.

The biggest fire, north of St. Paul, had been mostly contained Wednesday, but it flared up again Thursday and ignited some trees near the burned pastureland.

Howard County emergency manager Michelle Woiltalewicz said two fire departments were battling the latest flare-up on the fire that began Monday.

At least 17 fire departments were involved Wednesday when winds gusting over 40 mph helped spread the blaze.

Woiltalewicz said the fire destroyed one abandoned home and barn, and it killed several cattle but it was unclear how many. One firefighter also sustained minor injuries.

The cause of the fire that started in a roadside ditch is being investigated.

Woiltalewicz said she hoped snow falling in the area Thursday will help firefighters contain the fire.

In southeast Nebraska, firefighters from several departments battled a fire that charred an estimated 300 acres north of U.S. Highway 34, near Union. Officials hadn’t yet determined the cause there, either.

In northeast Nebraska, firefighters from Battle Creek, Humphrey, Norfolk, Madison and Stanton were dispatched to handle a wildfire along U.S. Highway 81 south of Norfolk.

Some farm residents were asked to evacuate as a precaution when the Howard County fire continued to spread in the windy, dry conditions.

St. Paul Assistant Fire Chief Shon Treat said at least two structures burned, but he wasn’t sure whether they were homes or outbuildings.

Farmers aided firefighters by turning over plant stubble in their fields to eliminate food for the flames, Treat said, while others moved cattle out of harm’s way and other people drove water trucks to replenish fire line supplies.

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