Firefighters from across the state reinforced efforts Thursday to fight a wildfire in northeast Oklahoma City that has raged for three days.
Oklahoma City Fire Department officials said they are rotating crews to keep firefighters as fresh as possible as temperatures have reached triple digits every day since the fire started Tuesday.
Oklahoma County Emergency Manager David Barnes said the combination of heat from high temperatures and the fire can wear down firefighters quickly.
“Probably the biggest impact we have right now, apart from the obvious property damage, is going to be the toll it's taken on our available resources,” Barnes said. “Having to spend multiple days out in triple-digit heat and low humidity contributes to the fire danger, which is obvious, but it's also very difficult on crews.”
Oklahoma City fire Lt. Carey Parker said the heat is only one of the problems firefighters face.
“It's very difficult,” Parker said. “The access to the fire a lot of times is difficult. You also have a problem with water supply. Our brush pumpers only carry 300 gallons of water, and you run out of that fairly quickly.”
Brush pumpers are small firefighting vehicles often used to fight wildfires because they can access them more easily than large fire engines. When a brush pumper's tanks run dry, crews return to staging areas to refill them before heading back to where they are needed.
Barnes said the state is fortunate that fire crews from all areas are eager to help when a major wildfire breaks out.
“We've got resources in here from the other side of Tulsa, southwest Oklahoma, all areas that have come in to assist as well as military resources,” Barnes said.
Pryor Assistant Fire Chief Sherman Weaver and a Mayes County task force kept fire from crossing a county road on the northeast edge of Oklahoma City near Midwest Boulevard and NE 118 Thursday.
The work is tough, and the fires often are in remote locations.
“Especially in this terrain, they're very hard,” Weaver said. “You can't get around to it.”
He said it is important to drink plenty of water in the heat. His task force is comprised of firefighters from Salina, Adair, Pryor, Osage, Locust Grove and Strang.
Parker arrived with a fresh crew Thursday to help with flare-ups.
“It's very difficult work,” Parker said. “You're doing a lot of walking to access the fire and dragging hoses, lines, while you are in your equipment in the heat.”
“We try to rotate our crews all through the day and night to keep everybody as fresh as we can.”