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A big wildfire near Haskell keeps firefighters busy

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A big fire charred thousands of acres near Haskell in Muskogee County. Fire crews saved many structures from burning. Some ranchers were not so lucky. They lost dozens of bales of hay. Thankfully, livestock in several pastures were spared.

Airplanes were called in to help douse the flames. They dropped their loads as fast as possible to help get the fire under control.

News on 6 reporter Heather Lewin says after a 7 hour battle crews put the fire out. Officials say the blaze spread to three counties. It was contained just before 8 PM Tuesday.

What authorities are still working on is catching the two men witnesses say intentionally started this fire. Investigators say witnesses saw the two men in a black pickup, throw something flammable out the window in four separate places.

The fires they sparked merged into one, which fueled by the dry grass and fanned by the wind, burned more than 4,000 acres. Muskogee County Emergency Management director Eugene Blankenship: "You really have to wonder what goes through people's minds to do something like that."

The Turner family lost 40 acres. Shirley Turner: "It just swished across here, couldn't stop it." The flames just missed the house and spared the livestock. The Turners fought it themselves until trucks got there. “Oh it scared me to death."

The flames had crews scrambling on the ground and in the sky. Ten fire departments from three counties joined in the fight. Haskell Lake is a major resource in this battle with fire trucks are refilling their tanks with the thousands of gallons of water it takes to fight the fire.

Though more than 100 homes were threatened, none were destroyed. Still, officials say farmers and ranchers are bearing the brunt of someone else's malicious act. Eugene Blankenship: "There's so many people that's worked hard out here and built a life and it gets burnt up. It's pretty sad and pretty frustrating. All I can say is I hope that they're caught, soon."

Blankenship says sheriff's deputies recently made an arrest in another case where juveniles confessed to nearly a dozen arson fires. He says investigators are already out questioning people and he's confident the two in this case will soon be caught.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Muskogee County Sheriff's Office at 918-682-7181.
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