Fire victims assess damage as federal assistance may be needed
BY RHETT MORGAN World Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 08, 2012
8/08/12 at 1:19 PM
Correction: A Wednesday Tulsa World story incorrectly reported the first name of Tulsa Fire Department Capt. Stan May, who is a spokesman for the Freedom Hill fire in Creek County. This story has been corrected.
View a video from the Creek County fire zone Tuesday, plus photos and more.
MANNFORD - Losses from the recent wildfires, including one that has scorched about 60,000 acres in Creek County, could reach into the "hundreds of millions" of dollars, Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak said.
Officials on Tuesday declined to estimate how many homes have been destroyed, saying they will begin documenting the damage later this week for a possible federal disaster declaration.
But Creek County Sheriff's Deputy Don Turner said he estimated at least 300 homes in the county have been destroyed, and the American Red Cross reported that assessment teams canvassed the county Tuesday and reported 209 homes destroyed.
Doak said more than half of the residents affected by the wildfires could be uninsured.
At least 61 schoolchildren in Creek County have been displaced, authorities said. Michelann Ooten, deputy director of the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management, said teams no later than the end of this week will begin documenting the damage.
Accurate damage assessments must happen before Gov. Mary Fallin can request assistance from the federal government, Ooten said. Getting that federal assistance depends on the number of uninsured and the amount of needs that can't be met on the state, county and local levels, OEM spokeswoman Kelli Cain said.
In Oklahoma, "... unfortunately we've had all too much experience," Ooten said. "That's a silver lining, if you will. We know the process. We know how to do it. As soon as we can get boots on the ground and it's safe to do so, we will do that."
As of Tuesday, the cause of the wildfire wasn't being investigated because it appears to be natural, said Tulsa Fire Department Capt. Stan May, spokesman for the Freedom Hill fire in Creek County, as it is being called.
A few burn injuries have been reported by residents trying to salvage items from their homes, and about a dozen firefighters have been treated for heat exhaustion.
Light winds and high humidity Tuesday helped the efforts of firefighters, who did controlled burns to deplete the blaze's fuel, May said.
Oklahoma Forestry Services units have built 30 to 40 miles of control line around the fire, Forestry Services spokesman John Goeller said.
Winds on Wednesday could be problematic, he said.
"Right now, we don't have a containment line all the way around it, so we can't say it's contained at all," May said. "If the winds come up real strong right now, we're in trouble."
The National Weather Service forecast southeast winds of 5-10 mph, becoming north-northeast in the afternoon on Wednesday. There is also a 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms, mainly before 1 p.m.
The high is expected to be near 100, with heat-index values near 105, forecasters said.
Jacki Norrid and her husband, James, lost their home of eight years.
"There's nothing left," she said. "It's all gone. We got the animals out. Nobody's hurt. Now it's just cleanup."
Jacki left the residence about 20 minutes before the residence went up. James stayed around to help firefighters.
"It was like a ceiling of fire," James said. "... It engulfed the whole thing. It was gone in a matter of seconds."
Tuesday, Donald Aldridge inspected the charred remains of the home of his ex-wife, Wilta Thornton, on Oklahoma 48. He also looked for her 14-year-old cat named "Kitty, Kitty."
"I'm still recuperating from the heat (of the wildfire)," he said. "Have you ever welded? That's the way my eyes feel right now."
Pointing out the blackened remnants of the residence, including the stove he recently purchased for Thornton, he maintained a sense of humor.
"At least I don't have to mow the grass for a while," Aldridge said. "Oh well. it could have been worse. She could have been in it."
Red Cross shelters
The Red Cross reported that seven residents displaced by area fires stayed overnight Monday at a Sand Springs shelter and one resident stayed at a shelter in Cushing. The Red Cross did not have numbers for its Lexington shelter.
The shelter in Sand Springs has been moved to the First United Methodist Church in Mannford.
Since the wildfires began, the Red Cross has recorded more than 230 overnight stays at its shelters, the organization reported.
The organization has also served about 1,900 meals and 11,500 snacks, according to a news release.
Nearly 150 Red Cross volunteers are responding to wildfire-damaged areas.
Red Cross shelters:
- First United Methodist Church, 100 E. Greenwood Ave., Mannford (relocated from Sand Springs)
- Cushing Senior Center, 203 E. Cherry St., Cushing
- Slaughterville First Baptist Church, 10101 60th St., Lexington
World Staff Writer Zack Stoycoff contributed to this story.
Statewide burn ban
Source: Oklahoma Forestry Services
Consumer protection information
Attorney General Scott Pruitt warned of possible "schemes and scams" following the fires. The office said residents should make sure home-repair companies and charities are legitimate. For more information, tips and resources, go online to tulsaworld.com/okagconsumer or call the Public Protection Unit at 405-521-2029.
* Since summer began June 21
|Days reaching the 100s:
|Wednesday's forecast high:
|Wednesday's forecast low:
|August's total rainfall:
|August's average rainfall:
** As of Aug. 7
Source: National Weather Service
How to help
American Red Cross: Accepting financial donations only, at tulsaworld.com/okredcross, 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: The best way for people to donate is to go to tulsaworld.com/
disastersalvationarmy The donation will be used in the wildfire disaster. Or checks can be mailed to The Salvation Army, PO Box 397, Tulsa, OK 74101, or brought to the office at 924 S. Hudson, Tulsa, Ok 74112 and note "OK Disaster" on the check.
Tulsa SPCA: The Tulsa Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is collecting animal-relief supplies for the fire victims in Creek County. Donations can be taken to its Mobile Adoption Center in the parking lot of Drysdale's, 3220 S. Memorial Road from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday.
Needed items include pet crates, pet food, blankets, towels and food bowls. Monetary donations can be dropped off at the Mobile Adoption Center or mailed to 2910 Mohawk Blvd., 74110.
Sand Springs United Methodist Church, Fourth and Main streets in Sand Springs, is accepting donations. Lakechurch in Mannford is collecting donations at Oklahoma 51 and 48.
A donation site for hay and feed for livestock has been set up at the Creek County Fairgrounds, at 17808 W. Oklahoma 66, Kellyville. Individuals interested in donating or receiving hay or feed should contact Sherman Grubb, Creek County extension educator, at 918-224-2192. Feed for cattle and horses is needed most.
Original Print Headline: Cleaning up and moving on
Rhett Morgan 918-581-8395
Jacki Norrid sits with her dog Buster on Tuesday in the remains of her home that was destroyed by a wildfire in Mannford. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World
Leslie Pritchard looks for clothes at Lake Church in Mannford on Tuesday. Pritchard lost everything when a wildfire destroyed her home. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World
Donald Aldridge views on Tuesday his ex-wife's home that was destroyed by wildfires in Mannford. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World
Aimi Lilly, 12, carries a donation Tuesday at Lake Church for victims of the wildfires that hit Mannford. Lilly is with Christview Christian Church in Tulsa. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World