NOBLE — More than a week after wildfires ravaged homes across Oklahoma, residents continue to pick up the pieces.
Some are getting a helping hand.
Working from the incident command center near Twelve Corners Baptist Church this week, more than 75 volunteers with the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma are helping clean up the ash that once was 100 homes in Cleveland County.
“Everything is gone. We are just having to call people to meet us up there so that we can figure out what needs to be done. It is pretty devastating,” said David Karr, incident commander for the Noble and Luther areas.
Other incident command centers have been set up near Tulsa to also help the wildfire victims in that part of the state, Karr said.
“This is just a mission of the Southern Baptist Convention. We are just here to help people. We don't charge anything for this service; it's totally free,” Karr said. “Our real goal is to do all this work in love and let people seek Jesus out in us.”
The work crews are staffed with volunteers from Oklahoma and Texas. They work with the homeowners to clean foundations, separate metals, cut down burned plants, clean ash and sift through the ash to find valuables, Karr said.
Kevin Russell, a volunteer from Mannsville working on one of the chain-saw teams, said the biggest issue volunteers are dealing with is the large amounts of ash.
“You know you are breathing that; you're wearing that. It doesn't take much, and you've got it all over you,” he said. “… most of those sites, the homes are totally destroyed, and you've got this remnant of trees all around there.”
One of the biggest concerns for the chain-saw team is taking down trees that are a potential hazard for ash cleanup volunteers and residents when they come back to rebuild or to sift through the debris, Russell said.
“Our goal is to come in and maybe give them a little bit of hope in the darkness,” he said.