As firefighters continue to respond to residual flare ups from Thursday’s wind-driven wildfires, officials are continuing assessing the damage that has left hundreds of people homeless. Across the state, Thursday, wildfires in western and central Oklahoma injured an estimated 49 people and destroyed more than 138 homes and 6 businesses. State emergency management officials say the largest property losses have been reported in south central Oklahoma and in eastern Oklahoma County. Oklahoma County More than 100 structures were destroyed in Oklahoma County alone Thursday. In Midwest City, officials said there were an estimated 2,000 acres burned, affecting 60 homes with 34 homes totally destroyed. In Choctaw, officials said there were another 17 homes destroyed. Midwest City Fire Marshal Jerry Lojka said a report of a flare up of one of the extinguished homes in the Oakwood East addition is probably going to be a repeating occurrence today. Because of numerous simultaneous fires Thursday, where flames were basically leaping from rooftop to rooftop, Lojka said firefighters weren’t able to battle the blazes in the normal fashion. Firefighters just didn't have time to peel back walls and soak everything to make sure hot spots are out. “We just did what we could and moved on to the next one,” he said. “It’s probably going to take us all day today to make sure everything is out.” After spending the night at the Midwest City Community Center, where about 75 residents flocked to after flames threatened their homes Thursday, 51-year-old Christy Bryant, along with her daughter and five grandchildren, were still waiting to find out if they still had a home. Bryant said she and her family left their home between NE 10 and Reno, after seeing the orange glow of nearby fires become stronger and closer. During the night at the shelter, Bryant said, her grandchildren were constantly bombarding her with questions about their toys, their clothes, their video games and their home. “I keep telling them that material things don’t matter,” Bryant said. “We still have our lives we still have each other — no matter what happens this morning.” While the Bryant and her family were preparing to see their neighborhood, residents in Oakwood East were slowly returning to the random devastation throughout the hard hit neighborhood. Sprinkler systems continued to spray water on scorched lawns, and water from a hard night of fighting fires ran through the streets of the neighborhood. The door to one partially burned house in the neighborhood was wide open, as if the family got out as fast as they could, not even bothering to shut the door behind them. Some houses were completely destroyed while the house next door appeared untouched. Nathan Christmon who lives at 2040 Westbury Drive, came home to find that his was the only house that burned on his entire street. “It’s almost like a tornado hit,” the 42-year-old Devon tax accountant said. “It’s just so random — the houses the fire chose to hit.” Charlotte Moore, who had just flown back home from Las Vegas, pulled into her Yorkshire Drive home Monday morning to find her neighbor’s house burned to the ground. But the only damage she had was a fence. “I had no luck in Nevada but I got lucky here,” she said. Midwest City Police Chief Brandon Clabes said he knew that there are people who will probably want to see the damage from the fires, but he is asking them not to. “The best way to see the damage is to look at it on TV or the computer, not at the locations” he said. “If you don’t live here or need to be here, we need you to stay away.” Clabes said emergency responders are tired and weary, but overall, they are in good condition and still doing their jobs. “I can’t give enough praise to our firefighters,” he said. “They did the most outstanding job I’ve ever seen, even though they feel like they didn’t because they felt helpless at times. “We know we saved some lives,” the chief said. “We just don’t know how many.” At Lake Stanley Draper, Oklahoma City fire crews battled brush and structure fires across more than two square miles east of Lake Stanley Draper yesterday, Deputy Fire Chief Cecil Clay said. At least three structures burned between SE 138 and SE 134 and officials are still assessing the extent of the damage. Hot spots in wooded areas gave firefighters a difficult time yesterday, and Clay said he anticipates they will do the same today. "There was no way we could save some of those structures," Clay said. "When the wind is blowing 30 to 40 miles per hour, embers just blow from one spot to another no matter how much water you use." Carter County Preliminary estimates indicate that 50,000 acres of Carter County were burned by out-of-control fires Thursday, said Ed Reed, Carter County Emergency Management director "It was so hard, so fast and so furious," Reed said about the 13 fires that caused hundreds of evacuations. "The 18 years I have been doing this, I have never seen anything like this." Fires started about noon Thursday and weren't under control until after 3:30 a.m. Friday. At least one firefighter was injured. Larry Hicks, Chandler emergency management director, said the injured firefighter's truck was overrun by fire. Reed said he isn't sure how many structures were lost in the fires. They were out at daybreak beginning assessment of the damages. At least one Ratliff City firefighter lost his home while fighting the fires, Reed said. The Fox-Graham Fire Department was destroyed by fire while firefighters were battling the wildfires. "They lost a truck, records, tools and everything," Reed said. "It was totaled. It was unbelievable." Reed said he had no idea how many fire department came to the aid of those in Carter County. Murray County In Murray County, fires continued to burn near Davis, dispatchers said. No major roads were closed. Portions of Interstate 35 that were closed last night had reopened. Garvin/McClain counties Oklahoma Highway Patrol helicopters circled the devastation north of Lindsay, Friday morning. A 15-square-mile area burned, McClain County deputies said. An estimated 10 to 15 houses were destroyed, but officials are still looking for possible losses. Purcell City Manager Eric Johnson said his information is that 13 homes between Lindsay, in Garvin County, and Purcell, in neighboring McClain County, were damaged or destroyed. The only severe injury firestorm injury reported occurred, near Lindsay when a motorist lost control on a smoke-covered roadway. Stephens County A raging fire fanned by 40 mile-per-hour winds caused the evacuation of the entire town of Velma Thursday. The fire destroyed 15 homes and three downtown businesses in this Stephens County town of more than 600 people, said Gary Ball, Stephens County emergency management director. There were numerous garages and storage buildings also destroyed in the fire that started about 1 p.m. A couple of firefighters suffered smoke inhalation while fighting the fires. They were taken for medical treatment and then released. Residents were allowed back to their homes starting at 11:30 p.m. Thursday. No one could enter the housing additions without going by City Hall for a slip of paper verifying their home address, Ball said. Elsewhere in Stephens County, there were fires in Loco and between Meridian and Duncan. The Meridian Nursing Home was evacuated during the fire, Ball said. Lincoln County In Lincoln County, about 40 miles northeast of Oklahoma City, a firefighter suffered major burns while battling a blaze and was taken to an Oklahoma City hospital, Chandler Emergency Management Director Larry Hicks said. The firefighter was listed in stable condition in the burn unit of Integris Baptist Medical Center, emergency management officials said. "We had one truck that got overrun," Hicks said. "It's pretty severe." Shelters The only mobile Red Cross assistance location in central Oklahoma open now is at Midwest City Community Center, said April Wilkerson of the American Red Cross. Community Shelters are open at the following locations: First Baptist Church in Healdton Midwest City Community Center First Methodist Church in Marietta Turner School in Love County First Baptist Church in Nicoma Park
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