Firefighters continued to battle hotspots and high winds Friday in the metro area as families who fled the flames a day before returned to see what was left of their homes. Wildfires that swept across eastern Oklahoma County destroyed 100 structures. In Midwest City and Choctaw, officials said there were an estimated 2,000 acres burned, destroying more than 70 homes — 12 in Midwest City and 58 in Choctaw. State health officials report that 60 people across the state have been injured in wildfires or in fire-related incidents. The cause of the fires is unknown, but officials said the largest fire, in Midwest City, may have been intentionally set. Here’s a look at the situation in the metro area:
CHOCTAWJohn Carpenter’s home near NE 10 and Choctaw Road was spared from Thursday’s flames, but a century-old farmhouse and other buildings owned by his family were destroyed. The wind-fueled wildfire advanced toward his home quickly Thursday night before he fled. "I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said. The fire also spared his brother’s two horses, that had won races. The Carpenter family lost countless photos, videos and antique items stored in two houses on their property. "I’d hate to even sit down and make a list,” said Tom Carpenter, John’s brother. About 10 homes burned in the Oak Park addition south of Choctaw High. Heather Ericksen, 21, said she saw her family’s burning home on television Thursday night, but it was still a shock to see the devastation in person. "It blew my mind,” she said. "It’s just all gone.” Ericksen said the fire was the worst thing that had ever happened to her family, but she was relieved her relatives and their dogs were OK. The news wasn’t all bad for Oak Park residents. Nancy Brooks returned to her house on NE 4 on Friday morning to find nothing more than some burned grass and plants. "I was blessed, I’ll tell you that,” she said. Brooks’ son, Ricky Gilbert, said firefighters pulled down her neighbor’s fence as they raced to contain the fire. "It’s a good thing they did,” he said. "They probably saved her house.” Neighbor Paul Anderson wasn’t worried about his damaged fence. "It could have been a lot worse,” he said.
MIDWEST CITYHer feet soaked from walking through the drenched remains of her home, Sammetra Christmon was just hoping to find a dry pair of socks somewhere. It took only a few minutes to realize everything was either damaged or soaked. "I don’t know what we’re going to do,” she said. "We don’t even have a toothbrush.” Amid the devastation, Christmon’s 9-year-old daughter worried about an Easter dress her mother bought her last week. Miraculously, in a closet full of charred and smoke-damaged clothes, the Easter dress was unscathed. There were a few signs of hope Friday as residents who fled their homes returned. When many were forced to evacuate Thursday evening, it was nearly 80 degrees. Friday morning, some were still wearing short-sleeve shirts and were looking for warmer clothing as the temperature was about 45 degrees. For most, their coats had burned up along with all their other possessions. Residents could be seen standing amid the soaked ashes of their homes. Sprinkler systems continued to spray scorched lawns, and water from a hard night of fighting fires ran through the streets of the neighborhood. Meanwhile, at the Midwest City animal welfare shelter, about 20 displaced residents brought their pets in, said Jay Eskey, a code officer helping animal welfare officials. About 10 lost animals were dropped off at the shelter.
OKLAHOMA CITYSung Wood left her home near Lake Stanly Draper around 6 p.m. Thursday night. After spending the night sleeping in a Walmart parking lot with her pet poodle, Wood returned to her home to assess the damage. Her home was safe, but around 1 p.m. Friday, fires flared up and licked at Wood’s travel trailer next to her home. "I don’t know what I’m doing here,” said Wood, who built her home about a year ago. "It just hurts to watch this.” At Lake Stanley Draper, Oklahoma City fire crews battled brush and structure fires across more than two square miles, Deputy Fire Chief Cecil Clay said. At least three structures burned between SE 138 and SE 134 and officials are still assessing the extent of the damage. Hot spots in wooded areas gave firefighters a difficult time and flames that flared up Friday afternoon forced some to evacuate. Contributing: Staff Writers Julie Bisbee, Ann Kelley, Jay F. Marks and Vallery Brown