Large Pawnee County Grass Fires Cause Evacuations, Shut Down Highways
PAWNEE COUNTY, Oklahoma - A large grass fire started near State Highway 48 and 5700 Road in rural Pawnee County on Thursday afternoon, and moved north along U.S. Highway 64 toward Cleveland. About 5 miles of land have been scorched so far, officials said.
The county emergency manager said that just before 2 p.m. on Thursday, officials were in the process of conducting evacuations in the fire’s path between 5700 Road (Benight Road) and County Barn Road.
The Oklahoma Forestry Service used an aerial tanker at Feyodi Creek to scoop water and make air drops across the rapidly spreading fire.
The fire then began moving north across U.S. 412 toward Cleveland along Highway 64 and began raging daylight faded.
On the east side of U.S. 64 in rural Cleveland, it caused evacuations near Dal-Roc Road and the Keystone Keys area.
Cleveland Public Schools says it held some of the after school bus routes because of the emergency conditions. The Cleveland American reported buses which normally take rural routes south of the city did not run. Bus numbers 8, 11, 12, 14, 15, 24, 25, 26, 29, and 31 did not run, the newspaper says.
A staging area was set up at Cleveland Middle School where parents picked up children in grades 6-12 who were unable to be delivered on the above bus numbers. The younger children are being held in their respective buildings.
By 4:30 p.m, Cleveland Superintendent Aaron Espolt told News On 6 there still were 200 kids at the schools who had not been picked up.
"But we want parents to know that no matter how long it takes, we will stay here with our students," Espolt said. "We know many people work late, so we'll be here as long as we need to be to make sure the kids are safe and supervised."
The superintendent said the school and bus routes will operate as normal on Friday.