Forestry Service Crews Still Working To Contain Grass Fires In Creek County

Tuesday, August 7th 2012, 6:44 pm
By: Craig Day

Fire crews, still trying to contain the grass fires in Creek County got a little help Tuesday from lighter winds and more humidity.

But they stress they're not out of the woods yet, and the fire could flare up again.

I geared up with crews from the Oklahoma Forestry Service today who are hard at work. I went to an area southwest of Mannford, where crews are using heavy equipment to cut fire lines.

So far, they have about 40 miles of bulldozer and fire lines built.

8/6/2012 Related Story: State Forestry Officials: Roughly 70 Structures Destroyed In Creek County

One of the firefighters is Don Cook.

"I've been on fires with interagency details with the forestry service all over the country," Cook said.

Cook and others worked Tuesday to set what is called a burnout in certain areas to get rid of potential fuel that could re-ignite.

"To box this in and get rid of the fuel and burn it out, so we can control this section of the fire," Cook said. "One less section to have to worry about."

They've broken down the fire zone into quadrants and assigned manpower and equipment to those specific areas.

"The first thing we do is try to build a box around the fire, establish a perimeter control, and start securing those lines to limit the fire spread," said Incident Commander Mark Goeller.

It's a well-coordinated effort with a number of agencies working out of a command center at Highways 33 and 48.

A highway patrol plane is also in the air looking for hot spots. Once they see one, rapid response teams are immediately sent there.

"They can make a very quick response to a particularly bad area," Goeller said.

The forestry service has people from all over the state helping on the ground in hot conditions and difficult terrain.

Even now, it's still a potentially dangerous situation. Crews wear hard hats in case of falling limbs. They have gloves and protective goggles. They wear flame resistance clothing and everyone has a portable fire shelter to use as a last resort.

Tuesday was a day to gain headway on the fire that was so widespread and so destructive.

With hard work and hope they're trying to make sure things don't get out of hand when the winds shift and get stronger.

"No stretch of the imagination are we out of the woods yet, we've got a long way to go," Goeller said.

The incident commander told me this fire was so large, and with it still being so hot and dry, this fire could smolder for weeks.

See full coverage of Oklahoma Wildfires