Fire managers on the Nebraska National Forests & Grasslands plan to take advantage of favorable conditions to implement a prescribed burn in the Sandhills on the Bessy Ranger District on Saturday, April 6.

Up to 12,500 acres of native grasslands will be treated with hand and aerial ignitions. A helicopter will be used to light the interior of the units from the air.  The use of a helicopter for prescribed burning is not unusual across the nation, but a first for the Nebraska National Forest.

Prescribed fires are one of the most effective tools available to resource managers for restoring fire-adapted ecosystems. These fires mimic natural fires by reducing forest fuels, recycling nutrients and increasing wildlife habitat diversity. Each prescribed burn is designed to meet specific objectives. The prescribed burn is designed to remove invasive species like the Eastern red cedar, provide community protection and promote forest health. Prescribed fires are managed with firefighter and public safety as the first priority.

Prior to actual ignition, fire managers will be considering many factors including: fuel moisture levels, current and projected weather forecasts, fire personnel resources available, and air quality.  All these factors need to be in alignment in order to carry out a successful prescribed burn treatment.

Smoke from the prescribed burns may be visible from Thedford, Dunning, Stapleton, Purdum, Highway 2, Highway 83, and other areas around the Middle Loup and Dismal Rivers.  Lingering smoke may be present for up to one week after ignitions are complete.

Fire updates will posted on Facebook at and on Twitter @USFSNebraska. 

For more information, contact the Bessy Ranger Station at (308) 533-2257 or email