Monday, 05 May 2014 16:21

Local firefighters to assist in Guthrie wildfire

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UPDATED 5/5/14 4:04 p.m.

Officials in Guthrie say that a wildfire that has killed one person has now charred seven square miles of land.

Guthrie Fire Chief Eric Harlow said Monday more than 30 structures have burned, including at least six houses. Harlow says it is not yet known whether more dwellings are among the structures that burned. The total can include outbuildings and other non-residential structures.

The fire started as an apparent controlled burn that got out of control. Harlow says that in rural areas, it's not necessary to get a permit to burn. Other agencies are investigating how the fire got out of control.

A 56-year-old man died after refusing to evacuate his home. There have been no other deaths, but Harlow says 37 firefighters have received treatment for heat-related illness.

UPDATED 5/5/14 12:55 p.m.

Firefighters facing another hot and windy forecast are working Monday to battle a large wildfire in central Oklahoma that destroyed at least six homes and left one person dead after a controlled burn spread out of control.

A McClain County Task Force, consisting of firefighter and equipment from Newcastle and Bridge Creek was deployed to help battle the blaze.

“We sent a brush truck with two firefighters last night, and they were there from 11 to about 6:30 this morning,” Newcastle Fire Chief Todd Yates said. “They are needing us again as soon as possible.”

Yates has been in constant communication with the Logan County operations and said that they will most likely be sending another task force with a brush truck and two more personnel to assist again Monday. Yates plans to assist with the wildfire as well, but is only sending a small amount to Guthrie so Newcastle will continue to have a robust staff.

The wildfire broke out Sunday afternoon near Guthrie and by 9 p.m. had burned an estimated 4 to 6 square miles of land as well as several homes, Guthrie Fire Department Chief Eric Harlow said. The fire was still burning Monday and threatening about 150 additional homes; Harlow said the blaze was about 75 percent contained.

Temperatures later Monday were expected to hit 100, with winds gusting from the south at 33 mph. Tuesday's winds were expected to be higher still, enhancing the risk of the fire spreading further.

"It's not that big ... but the potential is there," said Capt. Stan May of the Oklahoma Incident Management Team. He said two Black Hawk UH-60 helicopters from the Army National Guard were being sent in to help put water on the fire, with a third on standby.

The Guthrie Fire Department said six homes were destroyed but that the number of damaged or destroyed homes would likely rise. Fire department crews assessed the fire and damage by helicopter.

The fire department said about 1,000 people on Sunday evacuated their homes in the city about 35 miles north of Oklahoma City. Harlow said a 56-year-old man who did not leave was found dead in his home Sunday night.

Tony Ergang, 47, was among those who heeded the evacuation warning. Ergang, who lives in a mobile home, stayed as long as possible Sunday night and watched as the flames drew closer before finally heading to a hotel.

He came back Monday morning to survey the damage and found smoke damage to the inside of his home and burns on the outside. He fared better than a neighbor whose home was destroyed, with two burnt cars, a grill, a burnt wooden chair, two lawn mowers and an above-ground pool the only discernible items left.

"It's one of those things," he said. "It's like a tornado that tears through a house, leaving a napkin folded on the dining room table."

The American Red Cross set up a shelter at a church in Guthrie for those affected by the fire.

Smaller wildfires also popped up around the state Sunday, fueled by the hot, dry conditions. The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management said wildfires were reported in the southwest, northwest and north central parts of the state.

Insurance Commissioner John Doak, who had planned to tour the area Monday, had to wait until the fire was more under control, spokeswoman Kesha Keith said. Gov. Mary Fallin planned to tour the area Monday.

The next rain was forecast for Wednesday, when winds were expected to gust up to 39 mph, the National Weather Service said.


-THE ASSOCIATED PRESS contributed to this report.


Read 1074 times Last modified on Monday, 05 May 2014 21:04

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