Pawnee County Wildfire Flares Back Up


Monday, August 8th 2011, 11:24 am
By: News On 6


UPDATE: The Oklahoma Highway Patrol has once again closed the Cimarron Turnpike at mile marker 48.5 and mile marker 59. 

Craig Day, News On 6

CLEVELAND, Oklahoma -- The Pawnee County fire that destroyed more than a dozen homes Sunday flared back up Monday.

08/07/2011 Related Story: At Least A Dozen Homes, Structures Destroyed In Pawnee County Wildfire

Cleveland Fire officials said the fire forced the evacuations of several residents in the area of Polly Road and Highway 48 Monday morning.

In a race to protect homes, crews squared off against a fire that is unrelenting, unpredictable and unmerciful.

"It's huge. It's hard to control," said Chad Wilson, with Indian Electric Coop.

Firefighters are facing the flames for people like Pam Bellamy. With little more than a sprinkler, she hopes to hold back the oncoming flames, but she can't hold back the tears.

"It's right behind my house, it's on my land. It's right behind my house," Bellamy said. "There's a tanker truck that pulled down to Paul's."

The fire is racing toward her home. Her belongings. Her everything.

"I got my jewelry out, you've got my will so I'm not going to worry about my will," she said.

According to the Cleveland Fire Department, flames have reached the tree tops and crossed the turnpike.  The fire is creeping dangerously close to a power substation just south of the Cimarron Turnpike.

Moderate winds, dry fuel and low humidity are making fire fighting efforts difficult.

"We're doing the best we can with what we've got," said Gerald Woommavovah, Basin Fire Department.

The same fire burned more than a dozen homes and scorched acres of land near the Terlton area.

Part of the problem in fighting these fires is the wind is so strong. The fire can be on this side of the road and then in an instant jump to this side of the road and be on its way. The wind was blowing 20 miles per hour with gusts up to 30.

"It's just, blowing faster than anybody can handle it. Nobody can get on top of it," said Wilson.

While exhausted firefighters work to contain the flames, utility crews are trying to save substations.  They're also spraying power poles. The last thing anyone needs is downed lines sparking more fires.

National Guard helicopters are also dropping water. One made it to Pam Bellamy's home just in time.

"We've done a lot of praying yesterday, and since Friday. I think the Lord is going to take care of us. I really do," she said.

She has faith, but she's scared. It's hard to see thousands of acres scorched so far and hard to imagine thousands more potentially lost.