Grass Fires Burn West Of Tulsa

Friday, February 20th 2009, 3:00 pm
By: News On 6

By Ashli Sims, The News On 6

MANNFORD, OK -- High winds whip up grass fires across the Sooner State.  Fire crews from Norman to Mannford battled flames that threatened homes and charred hundreds of acres.  In northeast Oklahoma, fires burned through pastures and farms just west of Mannford.

A trail of white smoke ballooned along the hazy horizon, so thick in places you almost couldn't see the cars driving on old Highway 51, near Mannford.  The culprit:  three grass fires the Silver City Fire Chief believes were intentionally set along the highway.

Those three fires quickly became five on Friday afternoon.  Fire crews poured in from eight different departments to try to chase the wind-whipped flames.  Brent Johnson says in one instant the blaze was in the distance, the next at his front door.

"I look over and it was there. I mean instantly," said Brent Johnson.

Johnson says he scrambled to gather his fiancée, four children, and family pets to escape.

"Probably 25 feet tall the flames. And it was moving.  We literally had it at our bumper when we were coming down the driveway," said Brent Johnson.

The fires blazed through dozens of acres, leaving charred fields in their wake.  A Blackhawk helicopter showered help from above, but the fire line snaked right up to a home, but then took its fury out on Johnson's property.

"The fire department didn't do what they should have. In my honest opinion, we lost several buildings and they shouldn't have been lost cause they were sitting doing nothing," said Brent Johnson.

Others countered by relief and high praise from those spared.   

"It's pretty overwhelming that they've gotten so much done. And, taken care of it so rapidly. Cause you hear the horror stories, where it doesn't get taken care of and people lose everything. So, I'm thankful," said Brenda Ganders.

Some possessions were lost, but no homes were destroyed and no one was hurt.