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Oklahoma wildfires: Residents get back to their lives while remembering the worst

‘As the fire was coming I stopped and prayed,' said Jonathan Bell, whose Oak Grove neighborhood sustained some of the heaviest damage.
by Juliana Keeping Modified: August 5, 2012 at 10:11 pm •  Published: August 6, 2012

GLENCOE — Marie Montelongo doesn't have time to get sentimental about the possessions she lost after her home burned to the ground.

Montelongo had ducks to save from the heat, a fence line to run and cattle to find after a wildfire ravaged the family's 200-acre Spanish Spur ranch in rural Glencoe Saturday, she said Sunday.

“At this point you just have to figure out what you can do to save what you have,” said Montelongo, covered in soot from rebuilding a charred pen for the ducks.

She's grateful to have a place to stay at her parents' home, untouched by the fire just a few hundred yards away, she said. She and her husband, Oscar, also saved four dogs, four horses and cars before the smoke and fire overran the ranch roughly 80 miles northeast of Oklahoma City.

Weary residents drove on rural Glencoe roads Sunday morning, assessing damage from fires that appeared to have hopscotched over an expansive charred landscape. Hay bales and utility poles spit small flames and smoked amid ashy white and black remains of pasture, forest and the occasional structure.

Around forty miles southeast, officials in Drumright struggled with dwindling resources after beating back a fire that surrounded the town on three sides Saturday. The fires threatened two elementary schools, shut down a hospital and nursing home and prompted an evacuation, Drumright Mayor Deborah Bright said. Eleven structures, including six houses, were burned in Saturday wildfires that came within a block of her house, Bright said.

A wildfire evacuation called for the town of about 3,000 was lifted overnight Saturday. That afternoon, residents were still waiting for both water and power. The hospital remained closed, with patients transferred to nearby Cushing.

The Oak Grove subdivision just outside the Drumright city limits had some of the heaviest damage.

Jonathan Bell, who lives with his family in a trailer on his mother-in-law's property, said his home was spared and so was that of his mother-in-law, who lives in what was once a Baptist church. His wife's grandmother and uncle were not so fortunate; their nearby house burned to the ground.

Bell said he could see the fire surrounding them on four sides as they packed up boxes of family photos before evacuating on Saturday to his place of business in downtown Cushing.

“As the fire was coming I stopped and prayed,” Bell said. “Now we've just got to get power,” he said Sunday after returning to his home.

Gov. Mary Fallin stopped in Drumright Sunday after touring by air a 56-mile long fire line during a Sunday damage assessment, including the hard-hit Mannford area, she said at the Drumright Fire Department.

Fallin noted there are no reports of loss of life and injuries to firefighters have been minor.

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by Juliana Keeping
Enterprise Reporter
Juliana Keeping is on the enterprise reporting team for The Oklahoman and Keeping joined the staff of The Oklahoman in 2012. Prior to that time, she worked in the Chicago media at the SouthtownStar, winning a Peter Lisagor Award...
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