Grass fires damage or destroy several homes in eastern Oklahoma

Tuesday, December 27th 2005, 2:22 pm
By: News On 6

Grass and brush fires across Oklahoma keep firefighters busy on Tuesday. Those fires have scorched parts of at least 12 counties and they've been fueled by strong winds and extremely dry conditions.

Thousands of acres have been scorched, dozens of people have received medical treatment and a number of families evacuated. The state's emergency operations center in Oklahoma City is on full alert again Wednesday.

In Tulsa County, several homes were destroyed just west of Tulsa. It happened in the Oakhurst community, where more than 40 firefighters from four different departments fought that fire. Three homes and a barn were destroyed and about 300 acres scorched.

Among those affected by the fire is Donna Garner, who lost her childhood home. "My sister lived there until her husband died five years ago and not only was it her childhood home, it was her family home and now all those memories are gone."

Another home that burned belonged to an elderly couple. They made it out safely, but with only a few belongings.

To the south of Tulsa County, residents in Okmulgee County have had their own problems with wildfires. Fire crews have been stretched thin with three major fires.

Firefighters battled the flames through much of the day Tuesday and monitored hot spots early Wednesday morning. Smoke billowed across US Highway 75 and could be seen for miles. Homes were threatened in the Hoffman, Twin Hills and Beggs areas but none were destroyed.

This has been a struggle for crews still recovering from last month's destructive wildfires. Resources are scarce and rural departments are hurting. Dan Ivins with Okmulgee County Emergency Management: "We haven't even hit the fire season and we're already going beyond what we've spent in years past."

Officials say one of the hardest things for rural departments to deal with is what they called 'astronomic' fuel costs.

In Rogers County, four major wildfires are now under control. One fire burned in a field north of Talala. Firefighters were able to stop it before it got to any homes. Not far away, another blaze destroyed one structure.

Authorities say paramedics treated 57-people, mostly firefighters, for heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation. No one was hospitalized.