Stillwater News Press

Local News

August 6, 2012

Fire victims deal with loss

Families flock to shelters for help in wake of wildfires

STILLWATER, Okla. — When John Mullen and his wife, Sharon, smelled smoke near their Drumright home Saturday, they didn’t waste time.

“It’s scary when you can’t breathe,” said John Mullen, who suffers from respiratory issues. “One whiff of smoke and it felt like someone squeezing me.”

The couple fled to a Red Cross shelter at a senior center in Cushing where they spent Saturday and Sunday night. Even though the fire missed their home by a half mile, fire damage to utility poles and power lines left them without electricity.

Mullen also has nerve damage in his back, congestive heart failure and a bad shoulder. Living in a hot home without power is nearly unbearable for the couple and it wasn’t much better at the shelter. Mullen said he has only gotten three hours sleep the past two nights while on a cot as pain and the hectic atmosphere have kept him awake.

Despite the difficulties, Mullen said he has been amazed at the kindness of those around him. He said one morning he went to pay for his and his wife’s breakfast at a restaurant and was told another man had taken care of the bill.

“Everybody has been extremely generous,” Sharon Mullen said.

They consider themselves lucky because their home was spared.

Others were not. Officials estimate 10 houses were destroyed by fire last weekend. More were left without power.

Jeff Joiner, communications specialist with Central Rural Electric Cooperative, said more than a dozen housees were without power during the day. According to CREC’s website Monday night, power had been restored. Joiner said as crews continue to repair lines they may be shutting power off for a time. Those escaping smoke and flames under evacuation orders flocked to shelters during the weekend. Taylor Kelling, public affairs officer with Red Cross, said 160 had registered at the organization’s four shelters. Kelling said only five stayed Sunday night at the Cushing shelter. Kelling encouraged anyone affected by fires to register at shelters in Slaughterville, Sand Springs, Cushing and Norman where they can receive food, shelter, clothing and any other immediate need.

For those wanting to help victims, Kelling said the best way is a monetary donation to the Red Cross. He said this can be done easiest by texting “redcross” to 90999 and a $10 donation will be billed to your account. People can also visit okc.redcross.org or call 405-228-9500 to donate. Contributions can be designated for Stillwater area or Payne County victims. and/or firefighter support, at the donor’s discretion.

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