Oklahoma wildfires: Mild weather controlled most blazes, but not in Creek County

“This is now a marathon, not a sprint,” Oklahoma State Forrester George Geissler said Sunday morning. “The fires are not going to be contained or under control for several days still,” he said.
BY MATT DINGER mdinger@opubco.com Modified: August 5, 2012 at 10:11 pm •  Published: August 6, 2012
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A cold front moving through the state on Saturday caused the wildfires in Creek County to nearly double in size, but the milder weather allowed firefighters to gain control of other blazes across the state.

The fire in Creek County had burned across 32,140 acres by Saturday afternoon, Oklahoma Forestry Services spokeswoman Michelle Finch-Walker said. After winds shifted, the total was raised to 58,230 acres, she said.

“What was the flank of the fire, that flank became the front. When that happens, it chews up some countryside really quickly,” Finch-Walker said.

By Sunday evening, containment still wasn't a word passing the lips of fire officials.

“This is now a marathon, not a sprint,” Oklahoma State Forrester George Geissler said Sunday morning. “The fires are not going to be contained or under control for several days still,” he said.

Officials said more assets were brought in Sunday to fight the fires, including helicopters and tanker planes, although Oklahoma is competing for only nine large tankers in the country.

Dozens of structures have been destroyed in Creek County, but it's unclear how many buildings or homes have been lost, Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management spokeswoman Keli Cain said Sunday morning. Earlier, the department reported that about 40 structures had burned.

Evacuations of Mannford and Drumright in Pawnee and Payne counties were lifted early Sunday.

Temperatures across the state stayed mostly below triple digits on Sunday, but are expected to cross the century mark again Monday and Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.

Wildfire predictions for the state are above normal for the month of August, Finch-Walker said.

“We're in this for the month. It's going to take some significant changes to the weather and this drought before this changes,” she said.

A wildfire that burned 9,600 acres near Ninnekah was down to hot spots by Sunday evening, Cain said. A fire near Geary was 95 percent contained late Saturday, Finch-Walker said. Fire crews continue to monitor those sites.

Wildfires were reported near Morris in Okmulgee County about 7 p.m. Sunday. No structures were threatened by the fire, but the flames were moving fast, Finch-Walker said. Additional information about the Okmulgee fires was not immediately available. Another 13 woodland fires were reported in the southeastern part of the state, most of them in McCurtain County. No structures were threatened.

Cleveland County

About 7,900 acres burned and 100 structures are thought to be have been lost in wildfires in the Noble, Norman and Slaughterville areas, but it has not been determined how many were homes and how many were abandoned structures, Norman Fire Chief James Fullingim said.

Oklahoma wildfires
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