Volunteer Firefighters Pleased To See Charges Filed In Wildfire Case


Thursday, September 20th 2012, 5:00 pm
By: Craig Day


A 36-year-old Bristow man is accused of causing the wildfire in August that burned nearly 60,000 acres and destroyed hundreds of homes.

Officers are still searching for Billy Cloud.

Meanwhile, firefighters are glad charges are filed in the case, especially since they say, in most wildfires, it's usually hard to bring someone to justice.

With a fire that destroyed 376 homes and burned 90 square miles, it's still hard for even veteran firefighters to wrap their heads around the devastation.

"This is one of those fires we hope we never see again," said Kevin Smythe, of the Freedom Hill Volunteer Fire Department.

9/19/2012 Related Story: Bristow Man Charged With Arson In Tragic Creek County Wildfires

But one thing is certain, volunteers who fought that fire are glad there are now charges in the case.

"People maybe will pay more attention about where they are burning a brush pile, how big it's going to get and how much control they actually have on it," said Freedom Hill volunteer Carolyn Smythe.

Nearly every single Freedom Hill firefighter fought that fire for hours on end.

Carolyn Smythe admits she never thought charges would be filed.

"Thank goodness there are people who saw things, did come forward and made it happen. It takes a lot of guts to do that," Carolyn said.

In 25 years, Carolyn said she can only remember one other case in her district that was prosecuted.

Usually, it's challenging to go after those responsible.

"A lot of times there's no definite place to track it down to, just off the side of the road somewhere, someone driving by, so unless you have a witness there is no way of tracking it down, but in this case, there's a definite starting point," Kevin said.

Investigators said Billy Cloud started the fire when he threw down a burning cigarette.

A jury will decide if he's guilty of third degree arson charges, which means the fire was willful and malicious or if he's guilty of unlawfully burning during a burn ban.

"With one this large, with so many families displaced, it will help get closure, I think, for a lot of them," Carolyn said.

Both firefighters agree, charges in this case could help prevent future fires.

"It could be an eye opener that there are penalties to being reckless with fire," Kevin said.

Both of the charges Billy Cloud faces are felonies.

See complete Oklahoma Wildfire coverage