Massive Wildfire Largely Under Control In Washington County

Monday, February 17th 2014, 12:47 pm
By: Dee Duren, Emory Bryan

A massive brush and grass fire west of Ochelata in Washington County had authorities evacuating homes in its path. It was the first of several grass fires to flare up.

About a dozen fire departments responded to the large grass fire. It started burning Monday morning and crews were still working on it into the evening.

The fire peaked during the noon hour when the winds were gusting, pushing the fire to the south.

The fire split into two legs at one point, according to Osage SkyNews 6 pilot Will Kavanagh, which also split the firefighters' resources. Kavanagh helped with the firefighting efforts by reporting to the Osage Nation Wildland Fire Department from the air.

Washington County Emergency Management says the fire was located along the Osage and Washington County line. The area is very rugged which made the response more difficult, but fortunately there aren't a lot of residences in the area.

A lot of the land that burned was part of the Hughes Wild Horse Refuge.

Firefighters had some tough terrain to get around to stop the fire. There weren't many houses in the way, but Paul Turner watched as it got close to his.

"Lots of smoke, about 20 foot flames when it hit the side," Turner said.

The fire jumped a couple of country roads in the morning but slowed down in the afternoon. The people who live here said wildfires are common each year about this time, so they're used to keeping a close watch.

Resident Michele Turner, said, "I'm just waiting. I gotta move cattle and horses if it jumps that road down there, so we'll see. They're back-burning it so hopefully they'll get it under control."

At least 8 fire departments from Skiatook to Bartlesville worked on the fire line and most of them were volunteers.

Some worked on the active fire line, spraying it down, while others worked on the strategy. To protect homes, they set several backfires in areas where they could control it.

Dean Atkins with Avant Fire said, "Tried to tie it in so that it didn't spread and jump the road anymore."

The backfires worked, no structures were lost in the fire.

The National Weather Service reports that north winds gusted up to 45 mph and low humidity increased fire danger Monday morning.

Osage SkyNews 6 also captured video of firefighters on the job in Tulsa County in the 6100 block of North Osage Drive early Monday.

2/17/2014 Related Story: Fire Crews Responding To Coweta, Broken Arrow Wild Fires

Several  fire departments are also battling grass fires in Wagoner and Tulsa counties which are being fueled by high winds. The latest fire reported was east of Broken Arrow Monday afternoon.

Tulsa Fire Department sent a crew to battle this fire just after 1 p.m. The fire was near 71st and Aspen in a mixed industrial and residential area. Firefighters worked to keep the flames from crossing over to nearby homes.

Another grass fire causing heavy smoke was reported in Wagoner County. That fire is on the east side of 193rd East Avenue between 161st Street South and 141st Street South near the Golf Club of Oklahoma.