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Logan County wildfire continues burning Monday as investigators look into cause

Early estimations indicate as many as 3,500 acres have burned, resulting in the loss of more than 30 structures, including six homes, killing one Oklahoman, Guthrie Fire Chief Eric Harlow said.
by Kyle Fredrickson Modified: May 5, 2014 at 10:08 pm •  Published: May 5, 2014

/articleid/4746288/1/pictures/2571290">Photo - Amber Knox on Monday looks through the remains of her father’s mobile home   in Guthrie . Amber’s  father, Johnnie Knox, lost his life in a wildfire that continues  to spread through Logan County.  Photo By  Steve Gooch,  The Oklahoman <strong>Steve Gooch - 
The Oklahoman
</strong>
Amber Knox on Monday looks through the remains of her father’s mobile home in Guthrie . Amber’s father, Johnnie Knox, lost his life in a wildfire that continues to spread through Logan County. Photo By Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman Steve Gooch - The Oklahoman

“This is the biggest fire I’ve ever been on, and it moved the fastest I’ve ever seen,” said David Ball, emergency management director for Logan County and the city of Guthrie.

“We’ve had some big fires, but this one was massive.”

Controlled burn investigation

The wildfire is believed to have started as a controlled burn that spread with the help of high temperatures and wind speeds mixed with low humidity.

The area was not under a burn ban when the fire started, however, it was set without a burn permit.

It started southeast of Guthrie in the vicinity of S Pine Street between Forest Hills Road and E Seward Road, Ball said.

It burned to the northeast about five or six miles, staying east of I-35.

Because the controlled burn originated outside of city limits in the Woodcrest Fire Department’s district, it did not require any type of permit.

“We can kindly request that they notify their local fire department,” Harlow said.

“But that’s the only thing we can do.”

No local fire authorities were notified of the controlled burn, Harlow said.

The state Agriculture Department and the state fire marshal’s office are leading the investigation into where the fire began and who started it.

Weather forecast

The high temperature in Oklahoma City exceeded 94 degrees by early Monday afternoon, breaking a daily state record.

The National Weather Service predicts temperatures to stay in the 90s until at least Wednesday before a weather system bringing possible rainfall enters the state.

“As we get later into the week, we are going to start seeing a gradual increase in our humidity, but still not at the point yet where we can ignore the threat of wildfires, which is why we have that risk into Wednesday,” said Forrest Mitchell, of the National Weather Service’s Norman forecast office.

“Winds are going to stay brisk from a southerly direction through Wednesday, averaging 15 to 20 mph and there will be occasional higher gusts above 30 mph during the day Tuesday.”

Similar weather conditions across the state has aided the growth of at least three other reported wildfires.

Knox family recovers

Johnnie Knox was a lifelong truck driver who was affectionately called “Papa” by his seven grandchildren.

His brother, Jackie Knox, 52, said Johnnie Knox looked the part of the gruff, well-traveled trucker, but it hardly defined him.

“Johnny on the outside ... you would think he was an old bear,” Jackie Knox said.

“But on the inside, he was as soft as a little kid. And he’d give you the shirt off his back.”

He spent much of the latter years of his life mostly solitary, enjoying the company of his dog, Jackie Knox said, but would light up whenever family would visit.

Amber Knox said investigators told her Johnnie Knox died of smoke inhalation, a relatively painless death.

But she said it’s little consolation. When asked what happens next, her response was followed by tears.

“I don’t know,” Knox said. “Without my dad, I don’t know.”

Contributing: Staff Writer Kyle Schwab

by Kyle Fredrickson
OSU beat writer
Kyle Fredrickson became the Oklahoma State beat writer for The Oklahoman and NewsOK.com in July 2014. A native Coloradoan, Fredrickson attended Western State College before transferring to Oklahoma State in 2010 and graduating in 2012. Fredrickson...
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