• Wildfires impact western Oklahoma, prompt evacuations

    Updated:

    Story Highlights

    • Several dangerous wildfires are impacting those who live in western Oklahoma this week.
    • FOX23 is keeping in touch with officials about the efforts to slow the fires and keep people safe.
    • There are several things you can do to protect your home on fire danger days
    • New satellites help officials locate hot spots

    Fires are burning in western Oklahoma.

    They have covered hundreds of thousands of miles and left two people dead.

    Oklahoma Forestry Services officials said Seiling, Oklahoma, is being evacuated over the fires. Firefighters in the area later clarified that they had warned area residents of the fire, but Seiling residents were not forced to evacuate.

    Oakwood residents, on the other hand, were evacuated Tuesday.

    VIDEO: Green Country firefighters head west to battle Oklahoma wildfires

    Here are the latest updates from the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management:

    Current Fire Situation: Yesterday’s acreage—283,095 acres—is the most recent estimate available. An infrared flight scheduled for later this morning will provide an updated acreage estimate, which will be posted on Facebook and Inciweb (URLs above). Containment is currently 15 percent.

     

    The northeast side of the fire—southeast of Seiling and east of US Hwy 270—was the most active area yesterday as strong, persistent winds caused pockets of smoldering vegetation to reignite and further consume the very dry vegetation. Burning cedar trees have been contributing to the fire’s growth by sending wind-borne embers far ahead of the main fire, igniting unburned vegetation. Crews working on the northeast tip of the fire conducted a small firing operation south from County Road 2380. The tactic was used to “tie in” the fireline north of an inaccessible drainage thick with cedar. The burned area will serve as a buffer, reducing the likelihood of embers crossing the fireline into unburned vegetation. Westerly winds allowed crews on the fire’s west side to increase fireline containment between Camargo and Leedey and east of Vici. Crews are mopping up fireline along the minimally active fire perimeter between Leedey and Thomas, including the  communities of Putnam and Taloga. Night-shift crews patrolled, monitored, and further secured firelines south of Vici and southeast of Seiling. They extinguished hotspots and ensured that firelines were cold around structures.

     

    Today’s priority is to reinforce existing firelines and increase containment, particularly in the pocket on the southwest corner north of State Hwy 47, the northwest corner east of Vici, and the northeast corner east of Hwy 270. Numerous and varied aircraft are supporting the fire-suppression effort through water and retardant drops and reconnaissance and infrared flights. Clear skies again today will allow aerial operations to fully assist firefighters on the ground. An infrared flight later this morning will show fire managers where sources of heat remain near the fire’s perimeter. Firefighters will use the GPS coordinates to locate and thoroughly extinguish the hotspots.

     

    There are 214 personnel with the Southern States Type 1 Incident Management Team working alongside numerous state and local resources. Since Friday, the day after the fire started, the Oklahoma National Guard has also been providing logistical support to the fire-suppression effort.

     

    Weather and Fire Behavior: Weather conditions today are expected to be significantly more moderate than the last two days.  The maximum temperature will be in the mid-60s with a minimum relative humidity in the mid-20-percent range. East winds will be relatively light, 5–10 mph, and gusts will be light and infrequent.

     

    “Small changes in the weather can result in big changes in fire behavior,” Fire Behavior Analyst David Greathouse reminded firefighters assembled for this morning’s operational briefing. The moderate fire behavior expected today will give crews more direct fire-suppression opportunities. Operations Section Chief John Raulerson emphasized, “We have some room to work. Today will be a good day to get close to the fire, work hard, secure the fireline, mopup, and start putting some black on the map [i.e., black fire perimeter lines representing containment].”

     

    Evacuations and Road Closures:

    No communities are currently under evacuation orders. Because evacuations can be issued and rescinded quickly based on rapidly changing fire behavior, residents should contact their county sheriff’s department with evacuation inquiries.

    •             Blaine County: 580-623-5111

    •             Custer County: 580-323-1616

    •             Dewey County: 580-328-5580

    •             Woodward County: 580-256-3264

     

    Evacuation Shelters:

    •             Blaine County: Canton Old Gymnasium, 205 North Jefferson Street, Canton. Cheyenne-Arapaho Tribe managed, Red Cross supported. Information: Annie Walker, 405-626-8661.

    •             Dewey County: First Baptist Church, 301 North Noble Avenue, Watonga. Independently managed, Red Cross supported. Information: 580-623-5158.

    •             Dewey County: Vici Chamber Building, 107 East Broadway, Vici. Independently managed.

    •             Major County: Fairview Community Center, 206 East Broadway, Fairview. Independently managed.

    Burn Ban:

    The governor’s office has issued a burn ban for thirty-six counties in western and central Oklahoma, including the four that are affected by the Rhea Fire. https://tinyurl.com/y8ugoqfc

     

    Temporary Flight Restriction:

    A temporary flight restriction (http://tfr.faa.gov/save_pages/detail_8_2277.html) is in effect over the fire area. Media requests to fly can likely be accommodated. Call 863-610-0096 to talk to the incident air operations director prior to flying.

     

    Citizen Damage Survey—Oklahoma Emergency Management (OEM):

    Residents who have experienced property damage as a result of the Rhea Fire can submit that information to OEM through an online survey (https://tinyurl.com/y93cqsd8). The survey is not an application for or guarantee of assistance, but information obtained from the survey will be used by OEM, in coordination with volunteer agencies, to increase the effectiveness of response and recovery efforts.

     

     

    According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, 20 injuries have been reported by area hospitals:

    • Burns - 1
    • Smoke inhalation/heat-related injuries – 19

    FIRE REPORTS

    Rhea Fire – Evacuations were ordered Tuesday for residents in and around Oakwood and areas near Seiling. Oklahoma Forestry Services reports this fire is now estimated at 283,095 acres. Most fire growth yesterday occurred on the northeast side of the fire, south of Seiling.

    Task forces from Bryan, Lincoln, Mayes, Oklahoma, Pittsburg, Rogers, and Stephens counties are responding to the fire today. Additional crews from task forces from Bryan, Carter, Oklahoma, Pittsburg, Stephens, and Tulsa counties will be working the fire overnight. 

     

    34 Complex Fire – This fire remains estimated at 67,776 acres.

     

    Laverne Fire – This fire reported yesterday in Beaver County is estimated at approximately 100 acres.

     

    McIntosh County Emergency Management reports a fire on the west side of McIntosh County in a rural area has burned approximately 1,200 acres. There are no structures in the area and the fire is burning toward the lake, so no assistance has been requested.

     

    ADDITIONAL STATE AND LOCAL RESPONSE

    Oklahoma National Guard provided four water Hippos to be positioned at the staging areas for the Rhea and 34 Complex fires.

     

    Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality is providing support to local water districts that have been impacted by the fires.

     

    Local emergency managers from the following jurisdictions are responding to the Rhea and 34 Complex fires as part of incident command: Kingfisher County, Logan County, McClain County, City of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma County, Pittsburg County, City of Stillwater, Tulsa County/City of Tulsa, Washington County.

     

    ROAD CLOSURES

    Oklahoma Department of Transportation reports all highways closed previously due to fire conditions are currently open.

     

    To check CURRENT ROAD CONDITIONS in Oklahoma, call ODOT's ROAD CONDITIONS HOTLINE at 844-4OK-HWYS (844-465-4997) or go to www.okroads.org. For turnpike information, call the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority at 877-403-7623 or go to www.pikepass.com.

     

    AIR QUALITY ALERTS

    Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) reports there have been two air quality health advisories issued since April 13 due to smoke from wildfires. DEQ offers the following ways to stay informed when air quality conditions change.  Sign up to receive text messages and/or emails whenever DEQ issues Air Quality Health Advisories by following this link: http://www.deq.state.ok.us/aqdnew/AdvisorySignUp.htm.  DEQ will also continue to post Health Advisories on Facebook, Instagram @OklahomaDEQ, and Twitter @OklahomaDEQ.

     

    AID FOR WILDLIFE

    WildCare Foundation in Noble is reminding the public that if they find wildlife that are injured or orphaned due to the fires, they can call (405) 872-9338. WildCare will arrange transport to move the animal to their facility for rehabilitation.

     

    HOW TO HELP – DONATION INFORMATION

    Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management asks the media and public to continue to share the following donations information.

     

    When disaster strikes, the best way to support survivors of emergencies or disasters in Oklahoma is with cash donations to reputable voluntary organizations or disaster funds. Cash donations allow relief organizations or survivors to purchase what they need, when and where they need it. Buying supplies locally helps the local community recover by helping local businesses pay salaries and by keeping tax revenues in the community.

     

    Cash donations may be sent to the following relief funds:

    • Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Foundation - Make checks payable to Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Foundation with “Fire Relief” in the memo line and mail to P.O. Box 82395, Oklahoma City, OK 73148 or donate online at www.okcattlemen.org
    • Oklahoma Farmers and Ranchers Foundation - Make checks payable to the Oklahoma Farmers and Ranchers Foundation with “Wildfire Relief” in the memo line and mail to 2501 N. Stiles, Oklahoma City, OK 73105 or donate online at www.okfarmingandranching.org
    • Oklahoma Farmers Union Foundation - Make checks payable to Farmers Union Foundation, Inc., with “Wildfire Relief” in the memo line and mail to the attention of Wildfire Relief at P.O. Box 24000, Oklahoma City, OK 73124.

     

    In addition, cash donations may be made to the “Fireman’s Fund” at Bank of the West in Leedey to help provide fuel to volunteer fire departments working the fires. Please make checks payable to Bank of the West, with “Fireman’s Fund” in the memo line and mail to PO Box 38, Leedey, OK 73654.

     

    Cash donations may also be sent to volunteer fire departments, local churches, and voluntary organizations responding to the fires, including the American Red Cross and Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief. 

     

    The Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service is organizing donations of fencing supplies, hay, supplemental livestock feed, and milk replacer for calves that lost their mothers. Anyone impacted by the fires and in need of these items may call Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension at (405) 590-0106, (405) 496-9329 or (405) 397-7912. Anyone who would like to donate the items listed above may also the numbers above to offer donations. They will match up people who have items or services to donate with producers needing help to rebuild fences, transport hay and similar farm and ranch activities.

     

    Other donated items are not needed or requested at this time. Do not send unsolicited donations of used clothing, miscellaneous items or perishable foods, which must be sorted, warehoused, transported and distributed. This requires more efforts and staffing to manage those resources and takes away from recovery efforts.

     

    UPDATED INFORMATION FOR FARMERS AND RANCHERS

    U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Oklahoma Farm Service Agency (FSA) State Executive Director Scott Biggs reminds farmers and ranchers affected by the recent Northwest Oklahoma wildfires that disaster assistance programs are available to support their recovery efforts.

     

    FSA can assist farmers and ranchers who lost livestock, grazing land, fences or eligible trees, bushes and vines as a result of a natural disaster. FSA administers a suite of safety-net programs to help producers recover from eligible losses, including the Livestock Indemnity Program, the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program and the Tree Assistance Program. Detailed information on all of these disaster assistance programs can be found online at www.fsa.usda.gov/disaster.

     

    In addition, the Emergency Conservation Program provides funding and technical assistance for farmers and ranchers to rehabilitate farmland damaged by natural disasters. Producers located in counties that receive a primary or contiguous disaster designation are eligible for low-interest emergency loans to help them recover from production and physical losses. Compensation is also available to producers who purchased coverage through the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program, which protects non-insurable crops (including native grass for grazing) against natural disasters including excessive wind and qualifying drought that result in lower yields, crop losses or prevented planting.

     

    FIRE MANAGEMENT ASSISTANCE GRANTS SECURED

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has approved the state’s request for Fire Management Assistance Grants (FMAGs) for the 34 Complex Fire in Woodward County and Rhea Fire that began in Dewey County. The grants will help reimburse local governments, volunteer fire departments and other first responders for costs associated with responding to the fires. The authorization makes FEMA funding available to reimburse 75 percent of state, local and tribal government eligible firefighting costs for the designated fires. Federal fire management assistance is provided through the President’s Disaster Relief Fund.

     

    Agencies are advised to document all costs related to equipment and supplies (including fuel), labor costs, travel and per diem, temporary repairs of damage caused by firefighting activities, mobilization and demobilization. OEM will continue to assess the need for additional federal assistance.

     

    PRICE GOUGING STATUTE IN EFFECT

    The Emergency Price Stabilization Act is in effect for the 52 counties listed in the governor’s State of Emergency executive order, which prohibits an increase of more than 10 percent for the price of goods and services after a declared emergency. Additionally, the act allows the attorney general to pursue charges against individuals or businesses that engage in price gouging.

     

    The act is in effect for 30 days after the State of Emergency. It remains in effect for another 180 days for prices for repairs, remodeling and construction. For more information or to report a complaint, individuals are encouraged to contact the Consumer Protection Unit by phone at (405) 521-2029, or email at consumerprotection@oag.ok.gov.

     

    DIAL 211

    For Oklahoma residents seeking non-emergency disaster or health and human service information, please contact your local 2-1-1. Services are available 24 hours a day by dialing 2-1-1 from your home or cellular telephone. Please only call 911 for emergencies.

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