Firefighters in Oklahoma remained geared up Monday, Jan. 2 after 25 grassfires ravaged hundreds of acres across Oklahoma City.
The fire crews battled blazes from about 7 a.m on Sunday, Jan. 1 until about 7 a.m. Monday, Oklahoma City Fire Maj. Brian Stanaland, said.
More than 300 acres were destroyed within the 24-hour period, Stanaland said.
“We don’t know where we will be today,” he said. “At this point, we consider the whole city a target for grass fires.”
Firefighters were monitoring a hot spot Monday morning where a large wildfire erupted in northeast Oklahoma City Sunday night. The fire destroyed four homes and forced the evacuation of dozens of residents, Stanaland said.
One man suffered minor smoke inhalation after refusing to evacuate his home, Stanaland said. Firefighters on a brush pumper later rescued the man in a field near his home.
“We need people to cooperate and evacuate as soon as we ask them to,” Stanaland said. “We know this man was pretty frightened after his decision.”
Stanaland said the fire in northeast Oklahoma City was mostly contained about 8 p.m. on Jan. 1.
Across the state, wildfires fueled by unseasonably dry conditions and wind gusts of more than 50 miles per hour destroyed more than 5,000 acres Sunday.
At least a dozen wildfires continued to burn across Oklahoma Sunday evening, including a large blaze near Guthrie that destroyed several homes, said Michelann Ooten a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management.
More than a dozen homes were destroyed by fires on Sunday, including three mobile homes and a house that were destroyed by a blaze near Cashion that covered nearly 10 square miles Sunday night, Ooten said. One firefighter battling that fire suffered smoke inhalation.
Other wildfires continued to burn Sunday night near Prague, Depew, Guthrie, Stigler, Grant, Skiatook, Prue, Kellyville, Slick, Welty and Mayesville.
“We have reports of a dozen fires that continue to burn across the state, and we know there are more than that,” she said.
The fire near Wainwright in Muskogee County charred about 4,000 acres and was at least one-mile wide, Ooten said.
Army National Guard helicopters that were used to battle blazes over the weekend were grounded Sunday afternoon because of high winds and limited visibility, Ooten said.
Oklahoma City firefighters responded to at least 15 grass fires in the metro area Sunday afternoon that burned more than 100 acres, Stanaland said.
Several homes suffered minor exterior damage in northeast Oklahoma City after some power lines arced and caught some grass on fire. While firefighters battled that blaze, high winds blew up some construction material from a nearby construction site that hit the power lines, caught on fire and landed on a nearby nursing home, Stanaland said.
“You basically had flying, flaming debris,” Stanaland said. “Luckily, we were already on the scene putting out the fires when it happened so we were able to put it out. We were very, very lucky.”
The grass fire near Guthrie forced the closure of both the north and southbound lanes of Interstate 35 for more than an hour Sunday afternoon, said Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Pete Norwood.
At a press conference Sunday night, Gov. Brad Henry said he has asked President Bush to expedite the approval of a federal emergency declaration for Oklahoma. Henry said firefighting teams from Alabama and Tennessee already had arrived in the state and were helping battle fires. Additional teams from Florida and North Carolina were expected to arrive Sunday night.
“Oklahomans have faced many challenges and adversities,” Henry said. “This time will be no different. We will overcome this adversity, and we’ll do it with great compassion and dedication and the Oklahoma spirit the world has come to know.”
Officials declared a state of emergency for Oklahoma Friday because of wildfire conditions, sought a federal disaster declaration and enlisted firefighting help from other states.
The wildfires in the last week have ravaged more than 30,000 acres, destroyed nearly 100 homes and businesses, left one man dead and caused a handful of minor injuries.
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