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Across Oklahoma: Tracking the damage from the wildfires

FROM STAFF REPORTS Modified: April 11, 2009 at 7:44 am •  Published: April 11, 2009
Across the state, wildfires that began Thursday continued to consume everything in their path.

Firefighters who worked through the night came back to battle blazes Friday. The fires and fire-related incidents are blamed for the injuries of 57 people, said Patrice Greenawalt, trauma division director of the Department of Health. Some people suffered burns, while others were injured in wrecks caused by heavy smoke on roadways, Greenawalt said. A volunteer firefighter in Lincoln County remained in critical condition after his truck was hit by flames and he suffered second- and third-degree burns. Tornadoes that hit eastern Oklahoma on Thursday evening injured five, officials said.

Across the state, nearly 200 structures were damaged, including nearly 167 homes, according to the state Department of Emergency Management.

Nine rural electricity providers experienced power outages caused by wildfires, high winds, tornadoes and severe thunderstorms that hit the state Thursday and Friday. Officials estimate electric cooperatives lost nearly $447,300 worth of electrical distribution and transmission structures.

Here’s a look at the situation across the state:

Fires continued to flare up in parts of northwestern Carter County on Friday. Officials estimated that 50 to 75 homes and structures were either destroyed or damaged by wind-fueled wild fires in south central Oklahoma, said Patricia Whitener, manager of the south central chapter of the Red Cross.

The Department of Emergency Management estimated that 29 homes and three businesses in Carter County were destroyed.

Whitener said officials continued to survey the areas hit hardest in the northwestern portion of the county near Ratliff City.

"There are still some fires out there that aren’t under control,” Whitener said.

Whitener said most people had found a place to stay.

"We haven’t had high attendance in the shelters, but that’s pretty common,” she said. "Most people are offered a place to stay by family and friends.”

Whitener said the Red Cross’ disaster assessment is expected to be finished today.

"If we don’t have any further outbreaks,” she said.

Firefighters battled flames near Chandler into the night Thursday. Emergency Management chief Larry Hicks said he worked at the command center until midnight. He said three mobile homes were destroyed.

"I’ve been in this business for 35 years, and I’ve seen a lot of years where we had major fires, but I’ve never seen a day where we had so many at the same time so close together,” Hicks said.

Firefighters raced up and down the road near Debbie Connelly’s home south of Interstate 44 on Oak Road until the wee hours.

"The fire was so strange. It went around our house and it took all of the grass around us and then burned toward the interstate,” Connelly said. "Even at midnight, the ashes were so many that it looked like it was snowing.”

In Wellston, firefighter Charles Danker called it a scene of "hell on Earth,” his description of a fast-moving wildfire that threatened the Lincoln County community and forced residents to flee.

The wildfire, which started about 3 p.m.


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