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Teams across Oklahoma are assessing damage, flare-ups expected

FROM STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS Modified: April 10, 2009 at 4:35 pm •  Published: April 10, 2009
As firefighters continue to respond to residual flare ups from Thursday’s wind-driven wildfires, officials are continuing assessing the damage that has left hundreds of people homeless.

Across the state, Thursday, wildfires in western and central Oklahoma injured an estimated 49 people and destroyed more than 138 homes and 6 businesses.

State emergency management officials say the largest property losses have been reported in south central Oklahoma and in eastern Oklahoma County.

Oklahoma County

More than 100 structures were destroyed in Oklahoma County alone Thursday. In Midwest City, officials said there were an estimated 2,000 acres burned, affecting 60 homes with 34 homes totally destroyed.

In Choctaw, officials said there were another 17 homes destroyed.

Midwest City Fire Marshal Jerry Lojka said a report of a flare up of one of the extinguished homes in the Oakwood East addition is probably going to be a repeating occurrence today.

Because of numerous simultaneous fires Thursday, where flames were basically leaping from rooftop to rooftop, Lojka said firefighters weren’t able to battle the blazes in the normal fashion. Firefighters just didn't have time to peel back walls and soak everything to make sure hot spots are out.

“We just did what we could and moved on to the next one,” he said. “It’s probably going to take us all day today to make sure everything is out.”

After spending the night at the Midwest City Community Center, where about 75 residents flocked to after flames threatened their homes Thursday, 51-year-old Christy Bryant, along with her daughter and five grandchildren, were still waiting to find out if they still had a home.

Bryant said she and her family left their home between NE 10 and Reno, after seeing the orange glow of nearby fires become stronger and closer.

During the night at the shelter, Bryant said, her grandchildren were constantly bombarding her with questions about their toys, their clothes, their video games and their home.

“I keep telling them that material things don’t matter,” Bryant said. “We still have our lives we still have each other — no matter what happens this morning.”

While the Bryant and her family were preparing to see their neighborhood, residents in Oakwood East were slowly returning to the random devastation throughout the hard hit neighborhood.

Sprinkler systems continued to spray water on scorched lawns, and water from a hard night of fighting fires ran through the streets of the neighborhood.

The door to one partially burned house in the neighborhood was wide open, as if the family got out as fast as they could, not even bothering to shut the door behind them.

Some houses were completely destroyed while the house next door appeared untouched.

Nathan Christmon who lives at 2040 Westbury Drive, came home to find that his was the only house that burned on his entire street.

“It’s almost like a tornado hit,” the 42-year-old Devon tax accountant said. “It’s just so random — the houses the fire chose to hit.”

Charlotte Moore, who had just flown back home from Las Vegas, pulled into her Yorkshire Drive home Monday morning to find her neighbor’s house burned to the ground. But the only damage she had was a fence.

“I had no luck in Nevada but I got lucky here,” she said.

Midwest City Police Chief Brandon Clabes said he knew that there are people who will probably want to see the damage from the fires, but he is asking them not to.

“The best way to see the damage is to look at it on TV or the computer, not at the locations” he said. “If you don’t live here or need to be here, we need you to stay away.”

Clabes said emergency responders are tired and weary, but overall, they are in good condition and still doing their jobs.

“I can’t give enough praise to our firefighters,” he said. “They did the most outstanding job I’ve ever seen, even though they feel like they didn’t because they felt helpless at times.

“We know we saved some lives,” the chief said. “We just don’t know how many.”

At Lake Stanley Draper, Oklahoma City fire crews battled brush and structure fires across more than two square miles east of Lake Stanley Draper yesterday, Deputy Fire Chief Cecil Clay said.

At least three structures burned between SE 138 and SE 134 and officials are still assessing the extent of the damage.

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