Oklahoma Wildfires: Homes destroyed, residents evacuated in several counties

Some residents returned to assess the mess; police still looking for possible arsonist; six helicopters from Oklahoma National Guard dispatched to help contain biggest blazes.
BY ZEKE CAMPFIELD zcampfield@opubco.com Modified: August 4, 2012 at 11:04 pm •  Published: August 4, 2012

Investigators say they believe the fire was started by an arsonist who was throwing lighted newspapers from the window of a pickup. Oklahoma County Sheriff's Department is seeking the public's help in locating the driver of a black 2008 Ford F-150 pickup that was seen in the area just before the fires. Anyone with information is asked to call 863-2501.

The cause, though, doesn't matter right now for the victims. Right now it's about taking it all in and determining a plan for short-term relief.

“You can't even put it into words when you realize, ‘I have nowhere to go home,'” said Megan Renner, who lives a few houses down. “I have no home.”

Renner, a 21-year-old nursing student, was at school when she heard the wildfire was threatening her neighborhood. She rushed to meet her brother and several other family members at the house just in time to get some of the more important stuff out.

Then they watched as the three-bedroom brick home went up in smoke.

“We're still kind of in shock — we really want to go through it and see if anything is left, but it's still burning,” Renner said.

Victoria Landavazo, who lived next door, was in tears as she returned home for the first time Saturday. She said her husband and their seven children stayed behind at a friend's house in Arcadia while she surveyed the damage.

They spent the night praying.

“God is with us no matter what. He can take everything, but He left our lives,” Landavazo said between tears. “It's going to be hard, but I know he's in control.”

Cleveland County

Dozens of structures have burned since fires erupted near Norman, Slaughterville and Noble on Friday.

The heaviest workload Saturday afternoon was two miles east of Slaughterville on 156 Street, said Moore Fire Chief Gary Bird.

Bird said 100 to 150 firefighters were on the scene, and he asked that evacuees continue to stay away from the area.

“There's lots of residents who live out here staying in other places — please continue to stay there, do not try to return home yet,” he said. “We're just going to have to see what the weather holds and see if we have any good luck on it.”

State Highway 9 east of Norman remained closed between E 84 and E 168. A Red Cross shelter was to remain open Saturday night for evacuees at Slaughterville Baptist Church, 10101 60 St., in Lexington.

On Friday afternoon, Harold Grigg, of Slaughterville, said he tried to rescue his mother-in-law, Roselee Oliver, 69, but ran into a roadblock at Etowah Road. He said he convinced the police officer to let him through. “She's in ill health and couldn't get out of the house,” he told a photographer Saturday morning.

He did get her, and said that the house was still standing, but when he came back Saturday morning, it was gone. He had lived there 30 years.

His wife, Vicky Grigg, came back Saturday to find her Nissan Altima parked in the driveway untouched. But her keys inside the house were burned.

Creek County

Emergency management officials ordered the evacuation of western and southwestern Mannford as thousands of acres burned across Creek County Saturday.

EMSA medics were assisting local nursing home residents evacuate, said Carolyn Smythe, a volunteer firefighter and the Mannford Fire Department's ambulance director. Smythe said the damage will be significant. A Mannford police spokesman said the department has evacuated homes on Farrow, Aspen and Birch drives as well as Dogwood Road. The department later issued a mandatory evacuation for the town.

In Drumright, about 1,400 people were without power Saturday afternoon. The Turner Turnpike between Tulsa and Bristow was shut down for several hours Saturday because of a wildfire in the Bristow and Kelleyville area, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol reported.

Elsewhere

Cain said new fires erupted Saturday north of the airport in Stillwater, southwest of Quinton in Pittsburg County, and along Interstate 40 in Pottawatomie County.

Contributing: Staff Writer LeighAnne Manwarren


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