Update: DeSoto fire caused by lightning strike


DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge was closed Tuesday afternoon due to a fire in a heavily-wooded area in the southern section of the park.
According to the Missouri Valley Fire Department's Facebook, Blair, Missouri Valley, Fort Calhoun, Logan, Modale, Mondamin, Kennard and Iowa Department of Natural Resources responded to the fire at around 3:30 p.m.
"Blair was one of the first (departments) on scene and established command, USF&W took charge of the scene after they arrived. All personnel were gathered to regroup and come up with additional strategies to get this fire under control."
Luke Jones, a member of the Blair Volunteer Fire Department, said Blair arrived first on the scene on Tuesday to about 30-40 acres ablaze.
"There's a bunch of down trees and stuff where it made it difficult to fight, and we ended up calling mutual aid," he said. "The DeSoto bend crew, they called the Missouri Hotshots... which does federal burning for them. I think we had a crew on scene and then sent most of us home at 8 o'clock last night. We kept one water truck and a grass truck there with them until almost 10 p.m. last night."
On Wednesday, the refuge posted an update regarding the fire, noting that a lighting strike to a dead cottonwood tree was the cause.
"U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service fire personnel continue to work on the wildfire on DeSoto Refuge that started on the center portion of the refuge on Tuesday afternoon," the post reads. "The main fire front is contained, but lots of downed and standing dead trees are still smoldering." 
The post further reads that fire crews are monitoring the windy weather, and dozer liners are being put down to prevent the fire from spreading. Visitors are able to access DeSoto via the Visitor's Center and the west side unit located in Nebraska.
Jones said what made fighting the fire difficult was heavy winds and the dry grounds.
"We called in a bunch of gators or SUVs to come in, because there's a lot of down trees — a lot of it had to be done by hand," he said. "It was very up and down, a lot of holes. The terrain is brutal over there.
"[The wind] ended up blowing sparks to the other side and lighting the other side on fire that we thought we had under control. Wind was brutal over there."
Jones said without a good, heavy rainfall, the grounds will remain dry and be easier to catch a blaze.
"We're in dire need of rain for sure," he said. "I don't see any end in sight because it's dry all over and we definitely need a couple days soak of rain."