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Oklahoma Wildfires: New Fire Near Woodward Injures 2, Forces Evacuations

May 7, 2014

Firefighters work to extinguish a flare-up on Monday, May 5, 2014, in Guthrie, Okla. (AP Photo/Nick Oxford)

While firefighters near Guthrie, Oklahoma, worked to further contain a fire that's been burning since the weekend, a new fire sprang to life 130 miles to the west near Woodward Tuesday.

As of Tuesday evening, the fire stretched into both Woodward and Harper counties. At least one home was destroyed and 25 more evacuated, according to KFOR.

The Woodward County emergency manager told the TV station the fire was four to six miles large and crews had requested backup. Two people had to be hospitalized for injuries, according to Enid News.

"Fire weather conditions in the Southern Plains may be the worst so far this week on Wednesday," said weather.com senior meteorologist Jon Erdman. "Southwest winds gusting to 50 mph, more searing heat, and extremely low humidity pose the threat of spreading fire quickly in parts of western Kansas, western Oklahoma, the Texas Panhandle, eastern New Mexico and southeast Colorado."

Meanwhile, in Guthrie, crews said the fire there was 90 percent contained, but increasing winds made firefighting conditions more difficult as the day progressed.

Also, investigators revealed the 3,000 acre fire was not started by a controlled burn, as initially reported. The team continued to look into the cause of the fire, and they have not yet ruled out arson as a possibility.

The deadly wildfire began burning out of control on Sunday afternoon, torching parts of Guthrie and chasing more than 1,000 people from their houses. Wind gusts above 30 mph helped to fan the flames, and dry conditions in a state plagued by drought provided plenty of fuel.

(MORE: Triple-Digit Heat Smashes Records)

Early Tuesday morning, Guthrie Fire Chief Eric Harlow said the blaze is 90 percent contained, having burned 3,000 to 3,500 acres of land so far. At least 30 structures were destroyed by the fire, and 104 firefighters were treated for heat-related illnesses. Authorities said the man who died in the fire Sunday night had refused to leave his mobile home.

A firefighter was struck in the chest when ammunition went off inside a structure, although it's not clear what hit him, said Stan May, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Incident Management Team. The firefighter was treated at a hospital and released, May said.

(MORE: Here's How to Stay Safe in a Wildfire)

Officials also are assessing damage from some smaller wildfires in the state, including one in Pawnee County that claimed 1,500 acres and was threatening about 25 homes.

Gov. Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency Monday for counties throughout Oklahoma and a burn ban for 36 counties mostly in western and south-central Oklahoma. Logan County, where the large wildfire started, is included in the ban.

"One thing I know about Oklahomans is we're strong. We're resilient," Fallin said after visiting with emergency management officials earlier in the day.

A pair of water-lifting helicopters was dispatched to the scene and Fallin said she had asked the federal government to arrange for a large air tanker to be sent in from Arizona.

Rachel Hudson, 32, lost her home in the blaze. And around the time the fire arrived, her daughter Mariah was in a car accident. The teenager will need surgery.

"That was all going on at the same time our house was burning down," Hudson said by telephone as she sought shelter provided by the local American Red Cross. The home where she lived with her daughter, her ex-husband and her mother was not insured.

I hope my mom doesn't have to start over. She's too old for that.
Karen Dilley

"I'm scared. I don't know what I'm going to do," she said, starting to cry. "We lost everything."

Three of Mariah's friends from school spent Monday picking through the rubble and salvaged some dishes, antiques, tools and knickknacks.

"We're just trying to help out as much as we can," Shelby Cremeens said.

(WATCH: Severe Weather Could Threaten the Plains This Week)

Although Logan County did not have a burn ban in place Sunday when the blaze broke out, Oklahoma Forestry Services spokeswoman Hannah Anderson said conditions were ripe for a fire with a recent drought, high temperature readings and strong winds.

The same conditions were present Monday.

"We're just trying to put that thing out," Anderson said. "Weather always has an impact on fire behavior. With temperatures high and humidity so low, anything can spark a wildfire. We want the public to be vigilant: It's hot, it's dry and it's windy."

Karen Dilley and her sister Lorine Biggs surveyed damage to their parents' smoldering 160 acres Monday. Their 58-year-old house had been spared but firefighters were worried it might still be in danger.

"I hope my mom doesn't have to start over. She's too old for that," Dilley said.

(MORE: Homes Evacuated Due to Possible Landslide)

Tony Ergang, 47, said he stayed as long as he could at the family's mobile home Sunday night before going to a hotel. He returned Monday to wait for insurance adjusters after the back of his home burned and the inside sustained smoke damage.

A home down the street from his was charred. Ergang said it was clear he was just fortunate.

"It's one of those things," he said. "It's like a tornado that tears through a house, leaving a napkin folded on the dining room table."

At the top of the page is a slideshow of images provided by the Edmond Sun and other photographers covering the wildfires.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report


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