Wildfires Rage Across Oklahoma In Strong Winds
WASHINGTON COUNTY, Oklahoma -
Grass fires are raging all over Oklahoma on Wednesday as wind gusts up to 50-60 mph swirled across the plains, making it tough for crews to stop the flames.
Osage Sky News 6 HD flew over separate fires at all four corners of the Bartlesville area on Wednesday afternoon. From the way the smoke looked before sunset, it appeared the fires were getting closer to merging. Visibility declined quickly, and from the sky, the Bartlesville skyline was unable to be seen from less than 5 miles away, according to our pilot Will Kavanaugh.
The Oklahoma Forestry Services Task Force has been deployed to Washington County to assist area firefighters and mutual aid agencies.
One of the fires started about 9 miles west of the Bartlesville airport is grew as it moved east at a rapid pace, thanks to the vegetation in that area of the prairie. The fire swelled to several miles long. The rugged terrain was a break to the flames, but it also provided fuel. Firefighters had to take big detours around the fires when they hit the valleys and creeks.
Firefighters set up barriers, but the flames jumped county roads.
Crews on the eastern Bartlesville fire appeared to be moving into defensive positions to protect livestock, barns, homes and other structures because the wind kept them from knocking down the head of the fire. From the Sky News 6 view, we could see dozens of structures that had burned grass up to their foundations.
Near Ramona, we watched from the sky as upwards of 400 hay bales went up in a blaze as nearby horses scattered to safety in other pastures.
According to emergency management, the towns of Lenapah and Delaware were being voluntarily evacuated at 4:50 p.m. Then by 5:30 p.m., Nowata County officials said they weren't calling for evacuations.
From Osage SkyNews 6 HD we could see a home and what appeared to be a hay barn engulfed about 3 to 4 miles northwest of Lenapah.
The American Red Cross has set up a relief station at Lenapah High School to provide water and food to fire crews, and residents who choose to leave their homes are welcome there during evening hours. A Red Cross spokesperson said it is too early to tell if an overnight shelter is needed.
Earlier in the afternoon, Creek County crews fought a fire near Oklahoma 48 and 151st Street South north of Bristow. Officials said that one was brought under control quickly and had been turned over to the Freedom Hill Fire Department. A fire east of Bristow burned also, but no structures were in danger, firefighters said.
A fire southeast of Broken Arrow between BA and Coweta was reported to be threatening homes near 3:30 p.m. in the area of 101st South and 225th East Ave., but firefighters seemed to have it under control.
In Mayes County, five fires were reported during the afternoon, but no structure damage was reported by officials.
On the opposite side of the state, a large wildfire near the panhandle in Woodward shut down highways because of the heavy smoke and blowing winds.
According to News On 6 Chief Meteorologist Travis Meyer, as darkness set in on Northeastern Oklahoma, winds still were gusting at 40 mph. Meyer said winds should continue to die down, and by 10 p.m., an average of 20 mph gusts is expected. However, he said, the wind will remain strong compared to a normal day, which will hinder some firefighting efforts.