Bessey Ranger District: Rising From the Ashes


A lightning strike ignited a fire on the Bessey Ranger District of the Nebraska National Forest. What took five days to destroy will take years to completely regrow.

So far the Bessey Ranger District has risen from the ashes and reopened the last of its affected campgrounds.

When NTV arrived at the scene in July, there were parts of this forest completely covered in black. Now, that's no longer the case.

"It was shooting flames from probably at lease 40-50 feet," a firefighter said. "Taller than the trees here. We're talking 120-150 feet of flames in places."

Firefighters from surrounding states were called to help contain the blaze. After five days of hard work, they achieved 100 percent containment.

"After the fire, during the fire, and then for a couple months afterwards, we closed a lot of our roads and trails," district ranger, Tim Buskirk said.

Months after the damage has been done, new life flourishes.

"I was out there a week ago," Buskirk said. "It looks really nice and green and lush. It needs to grow a few more inches but it looks pretty green. The trees, they're black still but the grass and on the ground it looks pretty good."

This week they opened their final affected campground just in time for fall.

"Our busy season is during the rifle firearm season," Buskirk said. "It's good to have everything opened up and everybody to be here."

With fresh grass for animals to eat, this could give hunters an advantage.

"That kind of vegetation is probably pretty attractive to the deer. So I would assume there
might be more deer in the area rather than anywhere else."

Now this forest is 100 percent open. Buskirk advises visitors to proceed with caution. The entire national forest is still under a stage two fire restriction. Visitors must stay on the road or parked just off the side. You can't smoke outside and campfires are still off limits.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off