Governor Fallin Declares State Of Emergency In Wake Of Wildfires

Friday, March 11th 2011, 2:21 pm
By: News On 6

NEAR GLENPOOL, Oklahoma -- Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency Friday for all 77 counties in the state due to dozens of wildfires.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with all Oklahomans who have been impacted by these fires as well as our emergency responders in harms' way," Fallin said. "We know homes, as well as other property, have been lost and we will work to do everything we can to help Oklahomans during their time of need."

Under the Executive Order, state agencies can make emergency purchases and acquisitions needed to expedite the delivery of resources to local jurisdictions. The declaration also marks a first step toward seeking federal assistance should it be necessary.

On Saturday morning, wildfires that have caused extensive damage in Oklahoma and Texas are dying down. Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management spokeswoman Michelann Ooten says there are still a few hotspots and areas with smoke but it's nothing like what the state experienced Friday.

Unseasonably warm temperatures and winds with gusts of over 40 mph helped fuel fires that destroyed at least 49 homes.

Fires also destroyed a handful of homes and charred more than 3,000 acres in Texas.

Ooten said Saturday that weather conditions had improved, with the wind dying down and a cold front moving in.

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol closed the eastbound lanes of the Turner Turnpike from mile marker 197 to mile marker 211 for nearly two hours Friday evening after heavy smoke blanketed the area.

More than 30 grass fires were reported across the state Friday.

SkyNew6 shot video of a large grass fire south of Liberty Mounds in Okmulgee County along U.S. Highway 75. 

Crews battled another grass fire near Kellyville Friday evening.

Another large fire burned near Goldsby in McClain County, just south of the Oklahoma City metro area. 

The wildfire started Friday morning, and was pushed for miles by strong winds. While it did burn closer to Riverwind Casino, the casino was not in danger and operated as usual.

Goldsby emergency management director Greg Giltner says the huge blaze has destroyed as many as six homes, damaged other structures and charred an estimated 3,500 to 4,000 acres of grassland.

SkyNews 9 pilot Mason Dunn flew over the wildfire and watched flames destroy several homes. Reports say at least six homes and 10 barns were burned in the fire. One firefighter in McClain County had to be treated for dehydration.

Creek County Wild Fire

Another fire burned near Harrah in Oklahoma County. 

Officials believe the fire, that burned at least 30 homes, may have been intentionally set.

The Harrah fire and police departments held a news conference Friday night. Authorities said they are planning to interview a witness who observed someone deliberately start the wildfire that burned 12 square miles.

Earlier in the afternoon, students at Harrah High School and Harrah Junior High School were also evacuated. The wildfire burned very close to both schools, but they were not damaged.

Emergency medical crews also took residents of nursing homes and assisted living centers to other facilities away from danger.

Emergency Medical Services Authority spokeswoman Lara O'Leary said all 59 residents of Harrah Nursing Center were moved Friday afternoon to a nursing home in McLoud. She said EMSA and Midwest City EMS transported 20 residents by ambulance and the remainder traveled either in a nursing home van or in private vehicles.

Goldsby Grass Fires

O'Leary said no injuries were reported and the residents arrived at the McLoud center about 3:30 p.m.

Other fires were reported near Duncan and Stroud. 

Related stories:
Firefighters Save Okmulgee County Man's Home
Homes, Barns Destroyed In Wildfire Near Goldsby

Harrah Grassfire Devastates Animal Shelter
Choctaw Mayor's Home Among Those Destroyed In Wildfire