ELWOOD, Neb. - A Nebraska fire chief was killed, and a local emergency manager was seriously injured Thursday after wildfire smoke led to a head-on crash as both vehicles were headed to battle the estimated 30,000-acre fire.
Several significant wildfires have already prompted evacuations in the Central Plains, including in Nebraska and Oklahoma.
On Friday, the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center issued a critical fire weather warning for southeast Texas and southern Louisiana, the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles, Central Nebraska and North-Central Kansas.
The Nebraska Forest Service and other agencies continue to battle a 30,000-acre wildfire burning out of control in Gosper and Furnas counties.
The blaze impacts southwest Nebraska near Elwood, Arapahoe, Edison and Oxford. As of Friday afternoon, the fire containment is still zero, according to the Forest Service.
According to the Nebraska State Patrol, the volunteer fire chief was killed when two vehicles both responding to the wildfire collided outside of Arapahoe.
Elwood Fire Chief Darren Krull, 54, and Phelps County Emergency Manager Justin Norris were struck by a truck hauling water on Highway 283, according to troopers.
Krull died at the scene of the crash. Norris, 40, was taken to the hospital suffering from life-threatening injuries. He is in stable condition as of Friday. The 28-year-old driver of the water truck was injured.
"The fire and smoke in the area had created zero-visibility conditions on the roadway at the time of the crash," Nebraska troopers wrote in a news release.
"Our hearts are with all involved in this tragic crash, as well as those affected by the fire," Nebraska State Patrol Superintendent Col. John Bolduc said in a statement. "Please keep the firefighters, farmers, emergency managers, law enforcement officers, volunteers, and all others involved in this fire response in your thoughts today."
Highway 283 was closed north of Arapahoe due to low visibility on Thursday.
The wind is moving dust and smoke across much of the area near the fire, decreasing visibility and making driving conditions hazardous.
The National Weather Service in Hastings, Nebraska, issued a Blowing Dust advisory that is in effect until Friday at 9 p.m. CT. According to the NWS office, firefighters were working against gusting winds up to 60 mph on Thursday afternoon when the fire started.
Several residential and commercial buildings have been destroyed in the fire, according to the Forest Service. The American Red Cross has set up a response team at the Arapahoe Senior Center for people impacted by the fire.
Evacuation orders were issued for Edison, Stamford and Arapahoe but later lifted, according to the Furnas County Sheriff's Office.