Cold Front Helps Calm Southwest Oklahoma Grass Fire

September 6, 2011

Cooler temperatures and precipitation on Sunday helped calm a grass fire that destroyed 11 homes and led to the evacuation of many others in southwestern Oklahoma, authorities said.

An evacuation order was lifted, allowing residents in several housing additions near Meers to return to their homes. About 100 residences were evacuated at the height of the fire.

A cold front brought rain and higher humidity to much of the state late Saturday and early Sunday. Crews set controlled fire lines to allow the winds, which shifted from a southerly to northerly direction, to push the flames into areas that were already burned, said Comanche County spokesman Chris Killmer.

Numerous outbuildings, barns and storage buildings also were burned in the blaze, which began Thursday along Oklahoma Highway 49 in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge near Lawton, Killmer said. Refuge officials haven’t released a cause of the fire, which affected more than 30,000 acres, he said.

Fire and law enforcement personnel from across Oklahoma and northern Texas converged on the area to help fight the blaze, a task made more difficult by the refuge’s rugged terrain. Oklahoma National Guard helicopters equipped with 600-gallon buckets augmented efforts on the ground by dropping water on flames from the air.

The fire was one of several to break out last week across drought-stricken Oklahoma. Exceptionally dry conditions, exacerbated by triple-digit heat, have left grassland, trees and other vegetation susceptible to fires.

A large fire in Oklahoma City damaged or destroyed about 30 homes and scorched more than 5,000 acres on Tuesday and Wednesday. Another fire burned about 300 acres and forced the evacuation of Noble High School and some homes later in the week.

The cold front that swept across the state early Sunday wasn’t expected to bring much in the way of rain but should hold temperatures down into the 70s and 80s for much of the week, National Weather Service forecasts show.

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