Fires still burn in Oklahoma as residents sift through ashes
BY SHANNON MUCHMORE & MICHAEL OVERALL World Staff Writers
Monday, August 06, 2012
8/06/12 at 12:04 PM
Some spared, some devastated by Oklahoma wildfires
Oklahoma Insurance Department to help fire victims
Despite lower temps, watering limited
Creek County issues mandatory water rationing
Hundreds of residents in Creek County and other parts of the state returned home Sunday after mandatory wildfire evacuations, but fires continued to burn and some people found their homes in ashes.
About 58,000 acres have burned in the area west of Tulsa. No deaths have been reported but officials are concerned there may yet be victims found.
They had no estimate for the number of structures lost or the number of people left homeless.
"This is now a marathon, not a sprint," Oklahoma State Forrester George Geissler told reporters Sunday morning. "The fires are not going to be contained or under control for several days still."
Firefighters were at work against new flare-ups west of Mannford starting about 2 p.m. Sunday.
Officials said more assets were being brought in to fight the fires, including helicopters and tanker planes, although Oklahoma is competing for only nine large tankers in the country.
Three National Guard heli-copters were assisting on a fire in an area west of Drumright, the state Department of Emergency Management said.
Gov. Mary Fallin toured some of the devastated areas Sunday.
"This has really stretched the resources of the state of Oklahoma," she said. "It's just been a huge fight."
Saturday night, the Red Cross housed 119 people in shelters. It served 560 meals, 150 snacks and 100 drinks. On Sunday, the agency provided 1,000 breakfast, lunch and dinner meals to emergency workers and continued to provide drinks and snacks to first responders.
Other organizations offered assistance. A McDonald's restaurant in Sand Springs offered a free breakfast to fire victims and volunteers. Safari Sanctuary in Broken Arrow announced it will take in horses displaced by fire.
Statewide, more than 78,330 acres had burned since Friday, including in fires in the Noble/Slaughterville area in Cleveland County and in Luther in Oklahoma County, officials said.
Evacuation orders for areas of Mannford and Drumright and areas in Pawnee and Payne counties were lifted early Sunday, where wildfires raged Saturday afternoon, burning homes and shutting down highways.
An American Red Cross shelter in Pawnee closed Sunday due to a lack of need, but shelters in Sand Springs, 101 W. 38th St., and Cushing, 203 E. Cherry St., remained open.
All fires in Drumright were contained early Sunday, but Oklahoma 33 eastbound out of Drumright remained closed.
Fire officials urged caution to those planning to return to their homes. Power lines were down throughout the area.
As of 8:30 p.m., about 800 OG&E customers in the Drumright and Cushing areas were without power.
Dozens of structures were destroyed in Creek County, but it's unclear how many buildings or homes have been lost, Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management spokeswoman Keli Cain said Sunday.
Earlier, the department reported that about 40 structures had burned. Cain said there were no updated numbers from Saturday, when multiple structures could be seen burning.
Pawnee County: There were some structures lost and some homes damaged in Pawnee County, said Emergency Management Director Mark Randell.
Evacuations were near the Hallett and Jennings areas. No injuries were reported, Randell said. There were no reports available on the number of homes or structures that were damaged.
The county received some rain overnight Saturday, but "I don't think it was enough to put the fire completely out," Randell said. "Everybody is exhausted but we ask people to continue to pray and help the families and help the (firefighters) that are dealing with the fire on a daily basis."
Payne County: A mandatory evacuation in Glencoe was lifted overnight Saturday.
"A lot of people returned to their homes last night," Maj. Jesse Campbell of the Glencoe Police Department said Sunday. "No homes were lost within Glencoe city limits."
Pittsburg County: The fires were under control early Sunday and no homes had been lost, said Sheriff Joel Kerns.
Kerns said some structures in the county burned, but he said no official reports were available.
Kerns said some homes were evacuated Saturday as fires approached but they were saved with the help of road graders that were nearby.
"The county had some road graders and some local owners had some bulldozers and that was how we were able to manage," Kerns said.
It's unknown how many acres burned, but "we had a lot," Kerns said.
"We had all 27 fire departments in the county that were fighting the blaze, along with departments from Haskell County," Kerns said.
Sunday's weather provided some relief from the intensely high temperatures that have reached 110 degrees or more in recent days.
But lower temperatures and Saturday night rains in some areas weren't enough to avoid an "elevated fire danger threat" by late Sunday morning, according to the National Weather Service in Tulsa.
Temperatures are forecast to be in the lower-100s and upper-90s this week, with a slight chance of rain on Wednesday, forecasters said.
"The extreme temperatures of the past week are not expected," the state Department of Emergency Management said. "Wind speeds will be lower over the next few days as compared to the past week.
"The lower wind speeds will help keep the fire threat below the critical range experienced Friday and Saturday."
However, the agency warned that the wildfire danger remains high and will likely continue to be through at least the end of August.
Tulsa received .35 inches of rain - as measured officially at Tulsa International Airport - when storms moved through Saturday night and Sunday morning.
But other areas where wildfires were burning, such as Mannford, only received a trace of precipitation, the National Weather Service said.
Tulsa's rainfall this year is still 2.5 inches below normal since June 1 and more than 5.5 inches below normal since Jan. 1.
How to help
American Red Cross: Accepting financial donations only, at tulsaworld.com/okokredcross, or by texting REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Checks also can be mailed to American Red Cross, Dept. 995, Tulsa, OK 74182. Salvation Army: Call 1-800-SAL-ARMY and designate Oklahoma wildfires.
People wishing to help firefighters and emergency responders can donate nonperishable snacks 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday at Salvation Army Tulsa-area command, 924 S. Hudson Ave.
As of 8:15 p.m. Sunday
- Oklahoma 33, closed between Oklahoma 48 to Oklahoma 66. This is from the Turner Turnpike extending west 11 miles.
- Oklahoma 51, closed between Oklahoma 99 to Oklahoma 151. This is from near the Keystone Dam extending west 18 miles.
- Oklahoma 48, closed between U.S. 64 to Oklahoma 66. This is from just south of Bristow to the Cimarron Turnpike.
World staff writer Amanda Bland contributed to this story.
Original Print Headline: And still the fires burn
Shannon Muchmore 918-581-8378
Michael Overall 918-581-8383
Christel Jolly stands amid the remains of her home in Mannford on Sunday. MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World
Gov. Mary Fallin gives Tulsa firefighter Tyler Haught a pat on the back Sunday at a command center on Oklahoma 48. MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World
Sandra Jordan speaks on Sunday about the remains of her home that was destroyed by a wildfire in Mannford. MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World
A firefighter battles a wildfire near homes in the area of Oklahoma 48 and West 31st Street in Mannford on Sunday. MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World