Residents Return To Wildfire-Ravaged Creek County
CREEK COUNTY, Oklahoma - WILDFIRE UPDATE 8 p.m. Sunday: The following highways are closed as firefighters continue to battle an active wildfire.
- State Highway 51 from State Highway 48 to State Highway 99 is closed in both directions.
- State Highway 48 from the Creek/Pawnee County line to the Turner Turnpike is closed in both directions.
The evacuations of Mannford, Drumright, Oak Grove and Jennings are over. Residents should use caution while returning to the areas. Mannford Police Department reports that there have been no losses within the city limits, police say.
Firefighters in Creek County continue to battle hot spots and fight to get fires contained before the winds pick up Sunday. Aerial drops from Oklahoma National Guard also continue.
Firefighters in Pawnee County are watching for re-igniting embers and say they have no active fires on Sunday.
About 4:45 p.m. Saturday, the Emergency Alert Systems issued a mandatory evacuation alert for the Mannford area. About an hour later, a mandatory evacuation was issued for the city of Drumright.
At 7:15 p.m. Saturday, officials in Jennings ordered mandatory evacuations for the Jennings township, west and north of Jennings and parts of the Hallett area.
At 8:00 p.m., the small community of Oak Grove was being evacuated.
Also at about 8:00 p.m., our reporter on the scene was told that Black Hawk helicopters carrying water had saved the Mannford Post Office.
Our crew sat in the parking lot of the IGA in Mannford and saw huge flames burning through town around 8:30 p.m. Flames also flared up to the east.
Power outages have been reported throughout the Mannford area due to the fire. A spokesman for the Grand River Dam Authority said the main line feeding Mannford has been damaged, and GRDA is not sure how long that outage will last. GRDA crews are working to get generators to the city to be used at the water plant.
It was also reported that the Sands Springs water plant had no power around 9:00 p.m.
News On 6 confirmed with the Department of Emergency Management that there were 13 active fires in the state of Oklahoma at 4:30 p.m. Structures lost at this time total: 131 in the state of Oklahoma; 30 in Creek County.
Westbound lanes of the Turner Turnpike (Bristow gate to Tulsa gate) were closed for about two hours Saturday afternoon due to blowing smoke. They have re-opened, but officials said if wind directions change, it will close again.
The westbound Creek Turnpike entrance to Interstate 44 remains closed as of 6 p.m. Saturday.
The emergency management command post has been moved back to Highways 48 and 33 as the fire has passed that area.
Civil defense authorities say 21 agencies have been battling the fires overnight Friday. Now there are a reported 40 agencies working to put out the fire.
Creek County emergency officials held a news conference Saturday morning as wildfires continued to burn.
"There were quite a few structures that got burned last night," said Creek County Commissioner Newt Stephens at the media briefing.
"The firemen got in there and fought as hard as they could," he said. "We're glad that the evacuations come through, and we got everybody out. Public safety is most important."
As of late Saturday afternoon, officials reported that about 30 structures in Creek County had been destroyed by fire.
Stephens said they believe the fire was man-made, possibly as a result of burning brush. They also believe it started on Creek Nation tribal land and have turned over the investigation to the Creek Nation and the Lighthorse Police, he told News On 6 reporter Tess Maune.
Stephens urged residents and "gawkers" to stay away from the area. His greatest fear on Saturday was that a change in wind direction or gusting winds would change the direction of the wildfire.
"I know everyone wants to get in and check things out, but until we get it under control it's just not safe," he said.
About 50,000 acres have been affected by the fire, Stephens said, in a path about 6 miles wide by 13 miles deep. Stephens said the perimeter of the fire is from State Highway 16 just past Highway 51 and from Highway 48 to Highway 99.
Stephens said the wildfires had affected about 78 square miles as of Saturday morning.
"The largest wildfire I know of in Creek County," he said. Stephens said firefighters believe they can contain the wildfire before it crosses the Cimarron River.
The Oklahoma National Guard is helping with water drops from helicopters Saturday.
Anyone who has sustained losses in the fire is asked to report those losses to the Red Cross shelter in Sand Springs.
Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m., the shelter in Mannford was evacuated due to fire danger.
The Red Cross shelter has moved to the First United Methodist Church in Sand Springs, 101 West 38th Street.
Thirty-eight people slept at the Mannford shelter Friday night, according to Donita Quesnel with the Tulsa Red Cross.
The Bristow shelter was closed late Saturday morning, and supplies were relocated to the Mannford location.
Red Cross Shelter locations:
- First United Methodist Church in Sand Springs, 101 West 38th Street.
- First United Methodist Church in Pawnee, 800 6th Street.
Hot, dry conditions accompanied by gusty winds are expected to continue Saturday.
Keep checking back to NewsOn6.com for updates as more information is confirmed.