A smoky grass fire closed eastbound Interstate 80 on Thursday afternoon at Brady and gave a Nebraska State Patrol trooper a scare as fast-moving flames threatened to reach his vehicle.
The fire started out small and in the ditch but grew quickly, said Cody Thomas, a spokesman for the Nebraska State Patrol.
Video from the State Patrol shows the trooper backing his truck down the shoulder of the Interstate as the flames race toward him on his right and a series of semi trailer trucks speed past him on the left.
Trooper Seth Olson had been outside his vehicle directing traffic away from the flames when he saw the fire approaching, Thomas said. He got in his truck and backed down the Interstate with the flames in pursuit. Wind speeds varied, according to the National Weather Service, but gusted to about 30 mph at the time of the fire.
“He says he’s never seen anything like that,” Thomas said. “He said the heat was amazing, and he was worried that the paint on his truck was going to melt.”
Thomas said troopers train so they can make controlled, rapid backups. In this case, another trooper farther down the highway helped divert traffic to one lane so Olson had a better margin of safety.
No other problems were known to have resulted from the fire, Thomas said.
The Interstate was closed from about 1:10 to 2:30 p.m. Among those assisting at the scene were the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office and the Lexington, Gothenburg and Cozad Fire Departments.
The fire danger will be elevated in the Nebraska Panhandle on Friday and across much of western and central Nebraska on Saturday, according to the weather service.
The cause of the fire isn’t known. Central and western Nebraska is in drought, so sparks from passing vehicles or an errant cigarette could have ignited the fire.
“This is the season,” Thomas said. “So we’re asking people to pay attention.”
Our best Omaha staff photos of March 2021
Our best Omaha staff photos of March 2021
Parker and her son DeVaughn, 10, at B&B Boxing Academy. Parker, a single mom, works while DeVaughn is at school. Afterward, the two head to the gym six days a week.
Maria Corpuz, 25, who is Filipina-American, in her Omaha home on Saturday, March 20, 2021.
Callee, a bull elephant, is the largest elephant at the zoo, weighing in at 9,080 pounds. He fathered the calf due next year.
Rebecca Wyatt gives Claire, the Henry Doorly Zoo’s pregnant elephant, a treat during a training exercise Thursday. “We wanted to build a multigenerational herd here, and now we’re on our way toward achieving that goal,” said Dennis Pate, CEO and executive director of the zoo.
From left, volunteers Reichard German, Don Streeter, Jerry Leapley and Jay Johnson, serve up to-go order during a St. Patrick's Day Dinner at the Tangier Shrine Center in Omaha on Wednesday. The fundraiser to benefit Tangier Shrine activities and operations has been conducted in Omaha for more than 30 years.
The turnout gear of Dennis Bender, a Ponca Hills firefighter who died fighting a fire last week, sits on the back of a firetruck during his funeral procession on Tuesday.
Mike Prucha, from right, Eric Paulsen, Nolan Peek, and Roger Peek, all with the Irvington Volunteer Fire Department, stand as a funeral procession for Dennis Bender passes by the Ponca Hills Volunteer Fire Department north of Omaha on Tuesday. Bender, 78, was Nebraska's longest-serving paramedic when he died of a medical emergency while battling a brush fire on March 10.
Justin Thompson and Dillon Dierks, both with Fort Calhoun Fire and Rescue, stand opposite Eric Paulsen and Mike Prucha, both with the Irvington Volunteer Fire Department, as a funeral procession for Dennis Bender passes by the Ponca Hills Volunteer Fire Department north of Omaha on Tuesday. Bender, 78, was Nebraska's longest-serving paramedic when he died of a medical emergency while battling a brush fire on March 10.
Millard North's Hunter Sallis reacts after Bellevue West's Chucky Hepburn steals the ball.
People observe the national anthem before the Millard North/Bellevue West Class A title game.
Beatrice's Jace Pethoud lands on Elkhorn's Dane Petersen during the second half of the Class B championship on Saturday,
Auburn's Cameron Binder blows a kiss after he defeated Adams Central for the C1 championship on Saturday,
Auburn's Ryan Bender keeps the ball from going out of bounds after racing Adams Central's Lucas Bohlen for the ball in the first half during the C1 championship on Saturday,
Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family's Jason Sjuts holds onto the ball as Ethan Keller calls timeout while Howells-Dodge's Lance Brester, left, and Blake Sindelar right, trie to get the ball from Sjuts with 1.1. seconds left and the score tied in regulation during the D1 championship on Saturday.
Law enforcement respond to Highway 6 and I-80 in Lincoln on Friday, March 12, 2021. An Omaha police officer was shot at Westroads Mall in Omaha, and a police chase led to the exit near Waverly.
The sun rises over an E-4B Nightwatch aircraft at the Lincoln Airport on Thursday. Runway renovations have forced the planes to move out of Offutt Air Force Base.
Military personnel clean the cockpit window of a E-4B Nightwatch aircraft before it takes off at the Lincoln Airport on Thursday. Runway renovations have forced the planes to move out of Offutt Air Force Base.
Chris Kemp, left, and Neal Gloede, use a lift to install a sculpture, called Naga, inside the Marjorie K. Daugherty Conservatory as part of the Fantastical Folklore exhibit at Lauritzen Gardens on Wednesday. Gloede works at the Lauritzen and Kemp is the artist that created the piece. They are mounting on the trunk of a palm tree that is no longer alive.
Waverly's Andrew Heffelfinger and his teammates celebrate defeating Omaha Skutt.
Millard West's James Conway and Lincoln Pius X's Charles Hoiberg both reach out for possession of the ball at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Tuesday.
Elkhorn's Caden Reynolds attempts to steal the ball from Platteview's Ezra Stewart.
Sisters Annalia, 2, and Brenny Zepeda, 9, play outside their home near 37th Street and Bedford Avenue on Monday.
From left,Omaha's, Chris Esposito, Harrison Denk and Jack Lombardi roam the outfield against Creighton on Friday,
Omaha's Zach Munson (30) pitches to Creighton's Parker Upton (6) in the Creighton vs. Omaha baseball game, UNO's home opener at Tal Anderson Field on Friday. Creighton won the game 10-3.
Omaha's Chris Esposito (3) slams into the right field wall after missing a catch in the Creighton vs. Omaha baseball game, UNO's home opener at Tal Anderson Field on Friday. Creighton won the game 10-3.
Jenny Kros, along with her sons Hudson, left, and Lincoln right, watch Omaha take on Creighton from a hill just outside of the newly opened Tal Anderson Field on Friday, March 05, 2021. Jenny is married to Mike Kros, who played baseball at UNO.
Humphrey St. Francis players celebrate after their win against Mullen.
Winnebago's Madeline Cleveland high fives teammates before their game against Grand Island Central.
Former Sen. Ernie Chambers does push-ups before receiving his second COVID-19 vaccine at the Charles Drew Health Center within the Omaha Home for Boys on Wednesday.
22Elkhorn North cheerleaders hold up wolf paws during a free throw attempt against Omaha Gross.
Elkhorn North's Reese Booth fights for a rebound with Omaha Gross' Rachel Culhane.
Millard South's Mya Babbitt fights for the ball with Lincoln East's Zoie Armstrong at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Tuesday.
Lincoln East's Chase Kavanaugh, Morgan Witherspoon, Drake Heywood and Ethan Schainost show frustration after a foul is made against Lincoln East at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Tuesday.
As the final buzzer sounds, Millard South players celebrate and Papillion-La Vista players and cheerleaders walk off the court following the boys basketball district final game in Papillion on Monday. Millard South won 35-34 and moves on to the state tournament.
Papillion-La Vista's Aidan Graham (4) celebrates a three-pointer in the boys basketball district final game in Papillion on Monday. Millard South won 35-34 and moves on to the state tournament.
Floodwaters from the Platte River cover Ridgeland Avenue in Fremont on Monday.