Ranchers Clean Up After Devastating Nowata County Fire - NewsOn6.com - Tulsa, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports - KOTV.com |

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Ranchers Clean Up After Devastating Nowata County Fire

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The fire destroyed the Whitmire Ranch house and a hay barn. The fire destroyed the Whitmire Ranch house and a hay barn.
Where the two structures stood are only charred remains. Where the two structures stood are only charred remains.
Ranchers like Justin McKee are still working to clean up the damage at Whitmire Ranch. Ranchers like Justin McKee are still working to clean up the damage at Whitmire Ranch.
NOWATA COUNTY, Oklahoma -

Wednesday, wildfires burned nearly 8,000 acres of land across three northeastern Oklahoma counties. The State Forestry Department said the bulk of that, about 7,500 acres, was in Washington and Nowata counties.

One ranch was hit especially hard after losing its hay barn. Ranchers like Justin McKee are still working to clean up the damage at Whitmire Ranch.

"It was about the scariest thing I've ever seen," McKee said.

He’s lived near Lenapah for more than 20 years; and when he saw the smoke he rushed to help his neighbor, the ranch foreman.

Flames whipped across the Whitmire Ranch much of Wednesday, scorching thousands of acres of the 17,000-acre property, killing cattle and nearly killing the men working to save them.

"Somebody should have died last night. I mean it was absolutely insane how crazy it had gotten and how dangerous it had gotten. It was by the grace of God that no one was even injured," McKee said.

That includes our very own storm tracker, Von Castor, who was out tracking the fires when he drove near some cattle that couldn’t get into an adjoining pasture.

11/12/2015 Related Story: News On 6 Storm Tracker Saves Cattle From Nowata County Wildfire

Castor rushed to open a gate, which allowed the cattle to escape the flames, barely. Neighbors and ranch hands rushed to do the same thing to help the more than 3,000 head of cattle.

The fire also destroyed the Whitmire Ranch house and a hay barn. Now, where the two structures stood are only charred remains.

11/11/2015 Related Story: Wildfires Blaze Across Northeast Oklahoma

It’s a sight that McKee and others still can’t believe.

"I haven't seen anything like this, ever," he said. "I'm just amazed at the volunteerism, the spirit of volunteerism, that's alive in northeastern Oklahoma. The firefighters don't get near enough credit; most of them are volunteers and don't get paid, and they do it because they love helping their neighbors, and that's what we were created for."

We're told there is about 3,000 head of cattle, but they still don't have a good count of how many animals they've lost.

The owner also said this is a second home and that no one was in the main house at the time of the fire.

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