Three Years Later, Mannford Wildfire Victims Still Rebuilding

Tuesday, August 4th 2015, 7:36 pm

It's been three years since Oklahoma's largest wildfire scorched 60,000 acres in Creek County and destroyed more than 400 homes.

The sheriff’s office is still searching for Billy Cloud, the man who investigators say started the fire with a lit cigarette. They said they’ll continue their search until there is justice for the fire victims.

Three years later and burned trees still stand all over Creek County as evidence of the devastating fire; but for victims like Joe Anaya, the charred trees are reminders of what they've overcome.

“Pretty much like hell. It was a 30-foot wall of fire coming from the west,” Anaya described.

It's a scene that's burned into the minds of so many in Creek County, as flames torch the countryside, paying no attention to what was in its path.

“I got to witness our house being destroyed as I was heading down the road,” Anaya said.

Pictures taken after the fire prove nothing was spared. Anaya and his family lost everything, a loss hundreds of others in his community can relate to.

“Unfortunately a lot of people lost a lot of stuff, but that's what is, stuff. We're all still here to tell about it,” he said.

Some moved away from Creek County and the memories that were lost, but Anaya and many others chose to stay and rebuild.

He’s working on his new home, focusing on finishing the inside first so his family can be under one roof again.

While Joe Anaya is staying in a camper next to the house, his wife and children are living with family in the next town.

“When I'm not at work, I'm working here,” he said.

He's building the home himself, with some help from insurance and community support.

Sheriff John Davis said Billy Cloud is one of Creek County's most wanted.

8/2/2013 Related Story: Suspect In Creek County Wildfires Still At Large A Year Later

“Their lives were disheveled, they were torn apart, a lot of them had to start from scratch and start all over again. And yet, here he is continuing to live his life as he's choosing to do,” Davis said. “He's still...he's still free.”

Cloud is accused of starting the fire by throwing down a lit cigarette. The sheriff said Cloud disappeared before deputies could arrest him.

Anaya said he's certain Cloud will pay for what he did someday.

“In the end, everybody's gotta answer for their actions,” he said.

And for Anaya, it's not about what's behind him, but what's ahead.

“We will never get back what we had, but I look at what we have now,” he said.

We spoke to one of Cloud's family members, who said last he heard Cloud was somewhere in Florida but said that was a few years ago.

If you have any information about Cloud, you're asked to call the Creek County Sheriff's Office at 918-224-4964.