Washington County Wildfire Threatens Sutton Avian Research Center
WASHINGTON COUNTY, Oklahoma - A wildfire burning in Washington County, southwest of Bartlesville, is so close to the Sutton Avian Research Center that employees packed up the valuables and evacuated.
The fire already destroyed a small storage shed that belongs to the center and firefighters say it continues to threaten the other buildings, but, now that it's dark, there's nothing they can do besides keep an eye on the fire.
Tuesday afternoon, an airplane and helicopter took turns doing airdrops trying to tame the flames.
Washington County's Emergency Management Director, Kary Cox, said that was the only option because the smoke was so heavy firefighters couldn't see.
They said the wildfire has been burning for at least three days; the wind is too unpredictable and keeps changing direction.
Firefighters were able to save the other buildings for now.
Employees at the Sutton Avian Research Center spent the day clearing out their offices, saving not just artwork but also any valuable data and research just in case.
Executive Director Steve Sherrod said, "We've got a lot of different types of data that we've collected over the years, long-term studies that are invaluable; that's why we're moving all of our computers. And other types of data and specimens and so forth."
"We've got a very steep cliff on the other side of these buildings, and this fire is coming up with a lot of velocity when it reaches the top," Cox said.
We're told a crew of firefighters will stay there overnight to monitor the fire and that airdrops will continue Wednesday morning.