Oklahoma Fires Destroy Buildings, Vehicles

February 27, 2008

Several firefighters were treated for smoke inhalation, but no other injuries were reported as fires whipped by fierce winds charred thousands of acres of Oklahoma grassland and destroyed buildings and vehicles.

At least two of the fires occurred in neighboring counties in northwestern Oklahoma, while others were reported in central sections of the state.

The Woodward Fire Department received a call of a grass fire about seven miles southwest of Woodward, Woodward County Emergency Management Director Matt Lehenbauer said.

At least one fire truck belonging to the Shattuck Fire Department was destroyed in the blaze, and more could have been damaged, Lehenbauer said.

Crews from about 40 fire departments from Oklahoma and Texas fought the blaze all afternoon, fending off windshifts as a cold front moved through the area, authorities said.

Several firefighters were treated at the scene for smoke inhalation but they were released.

Wind gusts of 40 mph or more fanned the flames, but firefighters finally were able to contain the blaze.

Wind advisories were posted for many areas of the state, but were canceled for all but southeastern Oklahoma, where a lake wind advisory remained in effect until Tuesday morning. The winds began diminishing and were not expected to be as brisk as they were on Monday, according to the National Weather Service.

Also in northwestern Oklahoma, a large grass fire near the Great Salt Plains Park in Alfalfa County caused Oklahoma Highway 11 to be shut down for a while.

The blaze near Jet was reported around 2:30 p.m., said Walt Yager with the Jet Fire Department. At least 3,000 acres burned, Yager said.

In Pottawatomie County, an out-of-control grass fire destroyed a church, a home and two church vehicles about 6 miles northwest of Shawnee, firefighters said.

Not much was left of the Sallateeska Baptist Church in Johnson after the blaze, which also destroyed two outbuildings, assistant fire chief Don Lynch said.

A preliminary investigation indicated a trash fire spread to a field and then to the church. About 100 acres were burned before the fire was contained.

“There are very high winds today with low relative humidity and the fire burned out of control,” Lynch said.

In Oklahoma City, firefighters battled a four-alarm blaze on the southeast side that destroyed at least one building, officials said.

A nearby resident reported hearing a loud bang around 7:30 p.m. and losing electrical power. A short time later, a grass fire spread to a day care center and another building containing electrical equipment.

Firefighters were worried the flames would spread farther but they were able to get a handle on the blaze around 10 p.m.

There were no reports of injuries with the fire, which forced authorities to block access on heavily traveled Shields Boulevard.

Information from: The Woodward News, http://www.woodwardnews.net

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