Fire flare-ups continue Wednesday; dozens of homes destroyed

A wildfire that started Tuesday continues to flare up in northeast Oklahoma City. A church burned down, and dozens of houses and mobile homes were reported destroyed.
BY BRYAN DEAN AND TIFFANY GIBSON Modified: August 31, 2011 at 6:59 pm •  Published: August 31, 2011

A massive wildfire in northeast Oklahoma City refused to die Wednesday and continued to threaten homes more than a day after it started.

About 250 firefighters battled hot spots and flare-ups Wednesday afternoon even as victims sorted through the ashes the fire left behind Tuesday and early Wednesday.

Oklahoma City Deputy Chief Kellie Sawyers said three to five structures were on fire about 4 p.m. in a large flare-up north of Hefner Road between Sooner Road and Midwest Boulevard. Sawyers said she wasn't sure whether the structures were homes, barns or unoccupied buildings.

Winds of up to 25 mph hampered efforts to get the fire under control, fire officials said.

City officials completed a preliminary damage report Wednesday afternoon and found the fire had destroyed 17 houses, five mobile homes and one church, Harrison Bethel Baptist Church at 6300 NE 71.

Three houses suffered major damage, one had minor damage and eight more had slight damage. Many other barns and structures were destroyed. The damage report did not include structures that might have been damaged in Wednesday afternoon's flare-ups.

Oklahoma City Fire Chief Keith Bryant said a 12-square-mile area was scorched as the fire spread north between Sooner Road and Midwest Boulevard from NE 50 to Britton Road on Tuesday afternoon and evening.

Joe Turner, 54, said he lost three mobile homes at his property at 6000 NE 63. Turner lived in one of the homes, his sister lived in another and the third was for storage. He also lost several vehicles and pet dogs in the fire.

Turner sought refuge Wednesday at a shelter set up by the American Red Cross at Forest Park Town Hall after viewing the damage on his 20-acre property.

“It's torched. I've been there 35 years, and I didn't even recognize it,” Turner said. “I don't know what I'm going to do. I just came from there looking for something salvageable, but there ain't nothing.”

Turner marveled at the heat generated by the fire, which melted metal girders beneath his mobile home and melted an engine out of one of his vehicles.

Midwest City Fire Chief Randy Olsen, whose crews were helping battle the blaze, credited Oklahoma City for a quick response that kept the fire from becoming a larger catastrophe.

Olsen said firefighters were totally exhausted during Tuesday's efforts, but most were back fighting the blaze again Wednesday.

“These guys are well-trained and physically fit,” Olsen said.

Blog: Beware of running near the OKC fires
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