Stillwater News Press

Local News

May 6, 2014

Wildfires char Oklahoma

GUTHRIE, Okla. — Gov. Mary Fallin traveled to the Guthrie area Monday to visit with emergency officials and other first responders as crews continued to battle a massive wildfire in Logan County that has burned almost 2,500 acres and claimed one life.

At least 1,000 residents had been evacuated, but most were allowed to return to their homes Monday morning.

Fallin met with forestry officials to determine whether to issue a statewide burn ban. Later in the day, she issued a burn ban for 36 counties, nearly half the state. Oklahoma and Logan counties are included.

The ban makes it unlawful for any person to set fire to any forest, grass, woods, wildlands or marshes, to build a bonfire or fire, to burn or ignite fireworks or to burn trash or other materials outdoors.

Oklahoma Forestry Services, a division of the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, recommended the ban based on an analysis of fire activity, wildland fuel conditions and the predicted continued drought, according to the governor’s office.

Fallin also declared a state of emergency for all 77 counties due to wildfires that began Sunday. The action marks a first step toward seeking federal assistance should it be needed.

Other fires were reported Sunday and raging into Monday near Altus, Jennings and Keystone Lake in Pawnee County, Seiling, Stillwater and east of Woodward. Damage assessments are ongoing..

“We have extreme conditions for fire right now,” Fallin said. “We had fires at Woodward and Altus and Keystone Lake and fires popping up in other places. We have a lot of things going on in the state. We pulled together all the resources we can and we put the command center here in Logan County because of so many fires threatening the community.”

Fallin said six structures have been destroyed in Logan County and left one person dead after a controlled burn spread out of control Sunday afternoon. As of Monday evening, the one fatality had not been publicly identified as officials continued to reach out to next of kin.

Fallin said two Oklahoma Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters were taking turns dropping water Monday on the area of the highest smoke volume, southeast of the Guthrie Country Club.

Guthrie Fire Chief Eric Harlow said more than 40 agencies have worked the fire since the original call at 4:26 p.m. Sunday to the Woodcrest Volunteer Fire Department.

David Ball, Logan County Emergency Management director, said fire crews from Logan, McClain, Oklahoma and Lincoln counties have converged on Guthrie to help battle the fire. Those entities include Guthrie, Edmond, Oklahoma City, Midwest City, Tinker Air Force Base and others.

“We still have lots of hot spots that we are trying to control,” Ball said Monday afternoon.

Logan County has 30-50 employees helping with the fire, Ball said.

“I think we have done a really good job considering the conditions,” Ball said. “The humidity was very low and it was tough to get your arms around it.”

Cody Mosley, director of economic development and marketing for the City of Guthrie, said the city has worked to help emergency personnel with keeping crews safe, protecting property and with evacuation efforts.

“Agencies have responded from all over the state to (help) complete these objectives,” Mosely said.

Insurance Commissioner John Doak accompanied Fallin on her visit to the fire command headquarters south of Guthrie.

He said members of his team were in Guthrie to help homeowners with insurance questions.

Doak suggested home owners do an inventory of their household items and take pictures of them in case their property is in line of the approaching fire.

According to the Insurance Commission website, homeowners who have suffered damage to their properties should contact their insurance agents or insurance companies to begin the claims process. If they are unable to reach an agent or insurer, homeowners can call the Oklahoma Insurance Department at 1-800-522-0071.

After meeting with the media, Fallin walked around command headquarters and thanked a variety of first responders for their efforts.

“What is great about Oklahoma is anytime we have a crisis we all work together,” Fallin said. “We don’t wait for somebody come do it for us. Oklahomans are great about stepping up supporting different communities. We are strong and we are resilient and we take care of our fellow neighbors.”

Monday afternoon, as winds fanned the fire, more units were arriving at a stanging area. At 4:53 p.m., at the Guthrie-Edmond Regional Airport winds were blowing out of the southwest at 14 mph, gusting to 22 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

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