As those who lost homes in Thursday’s wildfires continued picking up the pieces Saturday, firefighters battled resurgent blazes and tried to find out who started one of the devastating fires. Residents in one Midwest City neighborhood evacuated their homes briefly Saturday when a fire near Anderson Road and Reno Avenue flared up. Meanwhile, investigators were looking for whoever set Thursday’s fire that destroyed about 70 homes in Midwest City and Choctaw. The fire started in a field north of a wrecker service near SE 29 and Post Road. The cause of the fire is unknown. "We don’t know if there was intent, but we’re 100 percent confident this is people-set,” said Midwest City Fire Marshal Jerry Lojka. "We can’t find anything accidental.” The next phase will be to interview people who live in the area, including in Parkway Mobile Home Park. The park is just east of Barnes Wrecker Service. Investigators don’t think that wrecker service workers are responsible for the fire because there weren’t any employees near when the blaze started. Lojka said the fire ignited near a junior high and high school, and firefighters have fought wild fires in the field before that were set by children. "We’re not pointing the finger at kids,” Lojka said. "It could be an adult. It could be anybody at this point in time.”
Digging through the ashesAs fire officials tried to find out who was to blame, residents in the devastated area confronted their losses. Todd Sewell worked the graveyard shift at Tinker Air Force Base before going home to sleep. A short time later, he awoke to pandemonium. "The house is full of smoke, and the fire alarm’s going off,” he said. Sewell shook his head Saturday in disbelief. "I’m glad I can talk about it because I might not have woken up,” Sewell said. The fire left neighboring homes virtually untouched, but it whipped through his house, burning almost everything but the tips of his new steel-toed boots. Wires, some red bricks, black blobs and a foot of soaked drywall muck form the bulk of his house now. The heat melted his steel safe and turned his guns into gray rods. Sewell and friends Steven Hamilton and Mike Arata on Saturday poked through the remains of thehouse on a hill at 11533 Berkshire Court in Midwest City. Sewell said his 19-year-old daughter, Kristina, had been planning to move in later this month when she returned from Hawaii. She’d sent boxes of clothes, toys and pictures. "What’s this?” Arata asked. Sewell peered at stacks of something with burned edges — folded clothes and parts of toys. "That’s where the boxes were stacked,” he said. "That is so sad.” They found Kristina’s baby book, charred so badly that just a few handwritten words were visible: "Love. My Kris. Mom.” Through much of the search, Sewell seemed upbeat. He pointed to the black El Camino that somehow made it through the fire just fine. But his Corvette and two other cars are gone. Also spared was Sewell’s 2003 Harley Davidson, which firefighters had wheeled to a neighbor’s house. "When someone says your house burned to the ground but your motorcycle is fine,” Sewell said with a laugh, "it just doesn’t make sense.”
Fires flare up in metro areaMidwest City Police Chief Brandon Clabes said his officers briefly evacuated homes on one street in the Eastwood Summit addition at Reno Avenue and Anderson Road after a fire flared up to the east. Many of Thursday’s fires, though controlled, continued to burn slowly in some areas. Firefighters tended to the hot spots as winds, not near as strong as Thursday’s gusts, caused the flames to grow or move to new areas. The fire in southeast Oklahoma City near Lake Stanley Draper is likely to keep burning until it rains, fire Deputy Chief Cecil Clay said. "We’ve got it under control, and we’re protecting structures when we need to, but it’s not a problem that is going to go away,” he said. Crews were tending to trouble spots Saturday and protecting structures east of the lake, mostly between SE 134 and SE 149, Clay said. He said the fires were burning in brush so thick firefighters couldn’t get to it, so crews made stands in meadows, on roads and near structures when the flames approached.
Officials hope rain will helpFirefighters in Carter County battled more fires Saturday near Tatums, as residents were evacuated from about 20 homes. Ed Reed, Carter County Emergency Management director, said several nearby departments were called in to help put out the flames, which were brought under control before they could damage any buildings. Carter County was particularly hard hit by Thursday’s fires. A Red Cross spokeswoman said 95 houses or mobile homes in the county were destroyed. Albert Ashwood, Oklahoma Emergency Management director, said firefighters across the state were mopping up from Thursday’s fires. Rain began moving into the Oklahoma City area about 9 p.m. Saturday, according to National Weather Service radar imagery. By 11 p.m., the Oklahoma Mesonet had recorded a trace amount of rain atits metro-area stations in eastern Oklahoma City, Norman, Shawnee and El Reno. Forecasts called for a 100 percent chance of thunderstorms in the Oklahoma City area in the early morning hours today, with rain chances continuing through Monday, according to the National Weather Service. "It’s going to be a godsend,” Clabes said. "Let it rain. Rain hard.”
Looking for helpChoctaw Mayor Randy Ross said officials are working with state and federal authorities to find out what resources are available for those who lived in the 58 Choctaw homes destroyed Thursday. Ross praised firefighters and police officers. "I am totally amazed that we did not lose hundreds of homes and totally amazed that we did not have any loss of life,” Ross said. Contributing: Staff Writers Michael Kimball, Brian Sargent and Aaron Crespo