Fire destroys downtown buildings in Okmulgee

Tuesday, September 7th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKMULGEE, Okla. (AP) -- Fire swept through a business district in
downtown Okmulgee, destroying at least four buildings and heavily
damaging several others.

Authorities said Monday's blaze was the second major fire to
sweep through the downtown area in three months. A fire in June
ravaged a half-block of downtown buildings.

Flames were visible up to 10 miles away as the fire spread about
4 a.m. Monday, gutting buildings that housed furniture and
appliance stores as well as a lounge, said Tim Smith, a commander
for the Okmulgee Fire Department.

"Probably about four of them was completely demolished," Smith
said. The cause of the blaze is under investigation, he said.

Smith said dozens of firefighters from Okmulgee and surrounding
communities battled the flames and managed to save nearby
structures. He said damage was not as extensive as it was following
the earlier downtown fire.

"We didn't lose a whole block or nothing like that," Smith
said. Monday's fire occurred about four blocks away from the site
of the previous fire and just one block from the city's central
fire station, where firefighters saw the flames, Smith said.

"They looked out the door and the fire was already going
through the roof," Smith said. He said the buildings apparently
were unoccupied when the fire broke out but that a couple of
firefighters sustained minor injuries when they fell while fighting
the flames.

The fire broke out as Okmulgee County authorities continued to
search for a county jail escapee who is accused of arson in
connection with the June downtown fire.

Donald Miller was reported missing at 11:30 a.m. Saturday after
he apparently sawed his way out of a window that had been fitted
with expanded metal and walked a ledge to the fire escape,
authorities said. A second man charged with the same fire escaped
from the jail in June but was recaptured.