Western Oklahoma Left Smoldering

Apr 16, 2018

 

An Oklahoma Insurance Department vehicle blocks a county road in western Oklahoma as fire fighters battle one of the many wildfires.
Credit Oklahoma Insurance Department

Wildfires have killed two people and burned more than 400,000 acres in western Oklahoma, and dry, windy weather already hindering firefighting efforts there will only get worse as the week progresses, fire and forestry officials said Monday.

Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management spokeswoman Keli Cain said in a news release late Sunday that a 61-year-old man died Thursday because of injuries suffered in the fire that began that day near Leedey, about 110 miles northwest of Oklahoma City. Cain said a woman also died as a result of a fire near Seiling, about 90 miles northwest of Oklahoma City.

Additional details have not been released and Cain said she has no further information on the deaths.

The largest fire, which began near Leedey and has burned more than 245,000 acres  in Dewey County, is about 3 percent contained, according to forestry services. A fire that began near Woodward, about 20 miles north of Leedey, has burned nearly 68,000 acres and is 45 percent contained.

The National Weather Service issued Red Flag Fire warnings for the region through Tuesday, saying the threat will be critical Monday with temperatures reaching the mid-80s, humidity as low as 10 percent and wind gusts of up to 30 mph.

The fire danger is expected to increase on Tuesday, with temperatures forecast to warm into the mid-90s, humidity below 10 percent and winds gusting to 40 mph.

"As bad as it is going to be today, we anticipate tomorrow being worse," said Oklahoma Forestry Services spokeswoman Shawna Hartman.

Hartman said firefighters will spend Monday working to put out hot spots where fire can smolder and erupt later, particularly in canyons where cedar trees can quickly ignite.

"Those areas are really where the focus is going to be, trying to extinguish those hot spots," Hartman said.

More than 1,400 people were forced to flee their homes Thursday and Friday when the fires began and spread, but there were no evacuation orders in place Monday morning, according to Cain.