While metro-area investigators work together to find the cause of Thursday’s fires that destroyed dozens of homes and more than 2,000 acres of grass and trees, federal and state officials will start assessing damage across the state. Two Federal Emergency Management Agency teams will begin assessing fire damage across the state today, said Albert Ashwood, state emergency management director. One FEMA team will look at damage in Oklahoma and Lincoln counties and another will be in southern Oklahoma in mostly Carter and Stephens counties. The teams are expected to wrap up their work totaling structures burned by Wednesday, Ashwood said. Because of the large area affected, Oklahoma City arson investigators are working with Midwest City to identify causes of fires that stretched across both jurisdictions, Oklahoma City Battalion Chief Homer Jones said Monday. Midwest City officials said the Midwest City-Choctaw fire was set about 3 p.m. Thursday at SE 29 and Post Road and spread northeast. It destroyed 12 Midwest City homes, and embers carried by winds gusting to 50 mph devoured 58 Choctaw homes. "The fire was intentionally set,” Midwest City Fire Marshal Jerry Lojka said. "We have nothing more to release. We’re following up on leads and completing interviews at this time.” The cause of a 5-square-mile fire in Oklahoma City that destroyed 17 structures near Lake Stanley Draper has not been determined. While those affected by Thursday’s fires are awaiting answers, Lojka said the inquiry might take time. "We have to be patient. These things take a while. It may take a while to get people to talk about what happened,” Lojka said.
What’s the damage?A current assessment from state officials is 100 to 150 homes destroyed statewide, and FEMA assessment teams will try to determine whether victims’ combined unmet financial needs are enough to trigger federal funding. But state officials urge people not to wait on assessments before seeking the help they need. "The main thing is to get in touch with the Red Cross and your insurance company,” Ashwood said. And while American Red Cross workers closed temporary field offices that had been set up near fire scenes, victims can still seek assistance through their local branch offices, spokeswoman Kyla Campbell said. The Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Department said although more than an inch of rain fell Sunday, a burn ban is still in effect. All outdoor burning is banned until the ban is lifted. Two citations were issued to Oklahoma County residents who violated the ban on Monday.
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HOW TO HELPIn the effort to determine the cause of Thursday’s fires ... Midwest City investigators can be reached at 739-1300. Oklahoma City arson investigators can be reached at 232-7766.
AT A GLANCEReplacing licenses lost in the fire People who lost their driver’s license in last week’s wildfires can apply for a replacement license as long as the original license has not expired, according to the state Department of Public Safety. Any tag agent can verify the photograph on file and other security features without documents, said Karen Gentry, director of driver license examining. All CDL holders, however, will be required to see a driver license examiner before acquiring a replacement. Call 425-7745 or your local driver examiner for more information.
In Midwest CityHere’s a look at the status of damaged infrastructure in Midwest City:
• All tornado sirens are working again in Midwest City.
• Emergency repairs were made Monday to police patrol car computers, firefighter radio frequencies and tornado siren controls that were knocked out by fire.
• Fire destroyed a building near the water treatment plant that housed emergency operations equipment.
• A backup police radio system was still being repaired Monday as well as some Oklahoma County sheriff’s radio frequencies that have been down, Midwest City Police Chief Brandon Clabes said.