ROCK CREEK STATE HISTORICAL PARK — Most can’t remember the last time Jefferson County experienced a fire so large.

After battling the Rock Creek Fire throughout last week and holding it to 1,800 acres, local emergency response leaders spoke with the Jefferson County Commissioners about the incident Tuesday.

Commissioner chairman Mark Schoenrock expressed what many in the county are feeling following the blaze.

"There are so many people whose homes were saved because of the efforts of you through all what went on last week," Schoenrock said. "I mean, there were a number of people who would have lost their homes."

Several local departments and state resources responded in a multi-day effort to contain the fire.

Fairbury Rural Fire Chief Kenny Krause detailed those efforts, which at times got very dangerous.

"We were trying to get a back burn going and the wind switched on us just as we lit our back burn," Krause said. "That put us at really high risk. We got out of it, but it wasn't an ideal situation at all."

Krause told the commissioners we was part of a division stationed near Rock Creek Station. Responding fire crews managed to save all buildings associated with the state's historical park. 

Despite the danger, the volunteer departments held strong. Krause credited the effective response to those firefighters and good communication.

"I thought the chief officers of each department worked super well together along with [Jefferson County Emergency Manager John McKee's] office," Krause said. "We made a lot of decisions quickly."

Krause also thanked the community for its response, saying they never had to pay for food throughout the event.

The fire sparked Tuesday and was declared contained Saturday. That means several volunteer firefighters stepped out of their jobs. Commissioners appealed to employers to pay them what they traditionally would make for that span, despite the time missed.

"We would encourage those employers to please compensate your volunteer fireman," Schoenrock said. "Even though they weren't working for you, they were out working for the citizens of Jefferson County. We would greatly appreciate you considering that."

As a result of this and other large fires across the state last week, Nebraska Governor Jim Pillen instituted a statewide open burn ban through April 23.