Stopping a Prairie Fire on a Nebraska Homestead

Woman of the family plows buffer strip and burns fire guard to stop an advancing prairie fire on a Nebraska homestead.

| Good Old Days

My father was away from our Holt County, Nebraska, home when Mother saw the large billowing cloud of smoke to the north. It could mean only one thing – prairie fire!

Perhaps the most effective way to combat grass prairie fire is to burn a fire guard, that means burning a strip ahead of the oncoming flames. A border, such as a furrow, is required on the leeward side.

Mother acted quickly. She and my brother Eban, 11 years old, harnessed the horses and hooked the team to the plow. With Eban driving the team and Mother holding the plow handles, a single furrow was, started. It was to be the salvation of our buildings and the tons of hay in the stack.

When she had run the plow for 100 yards or so, she came back and instructed my brother Merle, 9 years old, to set a fire at the side of the furrow, on the north side in the direction of the burning prairie. I had orders to keep my sister and the baby well back from the operation.

Mother and my brothers continued plowing and setting back-fires for about a mile, until they met a group doing the same thing. In the meantime, another group coming from the other direction had arrived at Mother's starting point.

The barrier had burned 50 to 60 feet wide when the big fire

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