|Updated: 8/08/2012 9:24 am
||Published: 8/07/2012 5:03 pm
Oklahoma officials announced Tuesday that tens of thousands of acres have burned in Creek County since wildfires broke out on Friday, and the number continues to grow.
But few people in the Tulsa region realize how close the wildfires were to spreading into Tulsa County and more populated areas.
On Saturday night embers from the blaze blew across Keystone Lake into the western edges of Sapulpa, igniting more neighborhoods. But two neighbors took quick action to help stop the flames from pushing farther east.
"It came quick," Nathan McClary said. "We didn't realize that it was even going to come to us."
McClary and his neighbor, Andrew Briley, had evacuated their homes near the Creek County-Tulsa County border on West 41st South St. near South 265th West Ave. Saturday evening.
"When I left my house, the last thing I took was a big picture of Jesus," Briley said. "And I said 'you're riding with me.'"
But something made both men come back. Electricity had been cut off to the area, so they fired up a generator to power their water wells to try and keep the flames from reaching their homes.
"About 30 minutes later it flared up again, and it was really blazing good," McClary said. "And it came back over and came over on the Tulsa County side over here. And we managed to get three [fire] trucks out here."
Standing shoulder to shoulder with trained firefighters, Briley and McClary went to battle.
"If it would have went from here, it would have went straight east (sic), and it's all wooded like this," Briley said. "And it would have just been an inferno that never would have stopped until it destroyed everything in its path."
A few miles away Leon Clark's instincts told him he should also stay and try to protect his home.
"I was going to stay here, but thanks to my landlord," Clark said. "He said 'nope, you're gonna go.'"
So Clark left behind his home and all of his belongings. The next morning when he returned, a pile of ash and rubble was all that remained.
"All I got to my name is the clothes I had on," he said.
"It's just... it's rough."
Now Clark is living in a tent set up near the ashes of what used to be his home. He just hopes he can replace his trailer soon. But he's keeping a positive attitude.
"I thank God I'm alive."
But for Briley and McClary, a flood of emotions overcomes them when they look around and see everything their neighbors lost.
"We just stayed down here and did the best we could," McClary said.
"It's tough," Briley said, fighting back tears.
"But I'll be here to help them rebuild."
While the pair couldn't save all of their neighbors' homes, their quick thinking and brave actions very well might have saved countless other homes from being destroyed.