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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
Thursday and continued through the early hours Friday, scorched more than 800 acres and destroyed three mobile homes, along with several outbuildings.

The fire briefly rekindled Friday afternoon but was extinguished.

One firefighter suffered second- and third-degree burns when he was caught up in flames along near State Highway 66 at the southern edge of town. His fire truck was destroyed.

The fire started south and west of town.

Fanned by 45 mph winds, it quickly spread northeast, jumping across the Turner Turnpike.

Heavy smoke drifting across the turnpike, SH 66 and SH 102 forced the closure of those roads for a short time. As the fire reached near SH 66, which forms the southern edge of Wellston, some 80 firefighters from 16 fire departments made a stand against the flames.

And for good reason, as a potentially explosive scene was on the horizon.

Crews feared the worst as flames made their way toward SH 66 near Green’s Propane. And to the east, a short hop away, stood a travel center with an array of fuel pumps.

Danker, a training officer for the Wellston Volunteer Fire Department, said the wildfire was the worst he’s seen around the area.

"It was unbelievable,” he said, noting that bountiful cedar trees in the area literally exploded.

Farmer Rodney Harmon searched for missing cattle Friday morning on his land north of Lindsay. He owns about 410 acres and lost his barn and an antique grain truck. He spent the day looking for seven cows, four calves and a bull.

"I’m depending on those calves to make a payment at the bank,” he said. Even if he finds them, there isn’t any grass left for them to eat.

Wildfires stretched across six miles and burned nearly 8,000 acres, fire officials said. At least 18 structures, many of them homes, were destroyed.

Two National Guard helicopters circled above Velma on Friday, dumping 660-gallon water buckets atop three raging fires on the outskirts of the already devastated community.

The town had already lost 16 homes and five downtown businesses. "It’s been pretty rough going for those who lost their homes,” said Monte Tadlock, a Velma firefighter who spent five hours in the hospital Thursday night with smoke inhalation. "The emotions are everywhere.”

On Thursday, volunteer firefighters stood their ground on downtown streets to battle running fires from the west. Some battles were lost, resulting in the destruction of 15 area homes and five businesses.

Velma, a town of 660 people, closed school and focused all its resources on snuffing out the fires as they moved south of town.

Officials estimate 16 homes were destroyed in Stephens County.

Contributing: Staff Writers Jennifer Griswold, Ron Jackson and John Williams, and MANNY GAMALLO and Clifton Adcock of the Tulsa World


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