Fires flare up again in Oklahoma; 29 homes and businesses destroyed

Saturday, January 14th 2006, 10:55 am
By: News On 6

RATLIFF CITY, Okla. (AP) _ Firefighters on Friday cleaned up the remnants of grass fires in southern Oklahoma that scorched up to 20,000 acres and destroyed more than two dozen homes and businesses overnight.

The worst fire had raged in southern Oklahoma near the towns of Ratliff City and Fox. At one time, the blaze in Carter County was four miles wide and burned at least 20 homes.

The fire burned in a rural area dotted with oil derricks, oil storage units, ranches and an occasional house.

``It's real rough country,'' said Chris Chancellor, a volunteer firefighter from nearby Healdton who helped battle the fire. ``I don't know how I got in there. I didn't know where I was at.''

At least four other homes burned near a high school several miles to the west in Stephens County, said fire information officer Richard Reuse.

Residents from the more than 800 homes evacuated in Carter County returned to their homes on Friday to assess the damage, said Mark Bays, a spokesman at the state's incident command center in Shawnee.

High winds could potentially spread the flames again, Bays said. The Carter County blaze continued to burn in spots, but had been secured by fire crews.

In Oklahoma alone, wildfires have charred more than 411,000 acres, destroyed more than 250 homes and businesses and caused two deaths since Nov. 1, said Cindy Frenzel, a fire information officer. Statewide, 29 homes and businesses were destroyed in Thursday's fires.

Wildfires also have menaced Arkansas, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas.

In northern Texas, firefighters Friday were close to containing a blaze that had consumed at least 4,000 acres and threatened 20 homes about 100 miles west of Dallas, the Texas Forest Service said. Smaller fires elsewhere threatened more than 50 structures and destroyed at least one home.