State investigators continue searching for clues as to how a massive wildfire in Logan County was sparked after initial reports about its origin were proven false.
In a news conference Monday, Guthrie Fire Chief Eric Harlow said the blaze started about 4 p.m. Sunday after a controlled burn from an unknown source spread out of control. But that theory was discredited about 11 a.m. Tuesday, when Stan May, spokesman for the state Homeland Security office’s Incident Management Team, spoke to a group of reporters at a wildfire command post.
“We have no evidence there was a controlled burn,” May said. “That was the information (Harlow) was given at first from the witnesses there ... it doesn’t seem to be a valid statement at this point.”
The wildfire investigation is being led by the state Agriculture Department and the state Fire Marshal’s office. Neither department has released details of their investigations.
The law enforcement arm of the Agriculture Department is required by statute to investigate wildfires, said Kirby Smith, a department spokeswoman. The state Fire Marshal’s office is involved because structures were burned, said Chief of Operations Sam Schafnitt.
“An investigation like this can take a couple of days,” Smith said. “As I would imagine with any investigation, that timeline can grow or decrease quickly.”
Teams from both departments have spent the past few days analyzing evidence on the ground and aerial maps to track burn patterns, Smith said.
On completion of the investigation, the person or party deemed responsible could face criminal charges.
“That’s obviously not something that would be handled out of our shop,” Smith said. “They will turn that over to the incident commander who will work with the appropriate district attorney’s office.”