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Residents evacuated in Luther; Oklahoma County sheriff suspects arson

Officials say 25 homes and a day care center were destroyed in Luther, while 17 families have lost homes in Cleveland County.
BY LEIGHANNE MANWARREN Modified: August 4, 2012 at 9:50 pm •  Published: August 4, 2012

Wildfires that swept across parts of central Oklahoma on Friday destroyed numerous homes and structures and forced hundreds to evacuate, authorities said.

Firefighters battled the wind-swept blazes in Oklahoma and Cleveland counties late into Friday night and into Saturday morning.

In Luther, Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel said about 25 homes and a day care center were destroyed by the fire.

The town also lost power. Sheriff's office officials said they suspect arson in the Luther fire, and that witnesses reported seeing a person driving a 2008 black Ford F-150 pickup with red lettering on the side throw a burning newspaper out of the vehicle.

The sheriff's office asks anyone with information about this person to call 869-2501. The sheriff's office has three investigators on the case, and the office plans to present its findings to the district attorney's office for prosecution, Whetsel said.

One injury was reported in the Luther wildfire, he said. The sheriff's office will continue to help in Luther “as long as they need it,” Whetsel said.

Cleveland County

In Cleveland County, several homes were destroyed by the fire near Norman, Slaughterville and Noble, Norman Fire Deputy Chief Jim Bailey said Friday afternoon.

“The conditions are absolutely horrible for firefighting,” Bailey said. “We have got low humidity, we got winds up to 25 mph, so it is just really difficult.”

As of Friday evening, no serious injuries were reported in Cleveland County, although a volunteer firefighter became overheated, Bailey said.

The American Red Cross reported that 17 families had lost their homes in the wildfires in Cleveland County, said Kayla Costner, American Red Cross regional communications coordinator.

Tracy Montgomery, an evacuee at the Red Cross evacuation center in Noble, seemed sure her new home was destroyed by the blaze.

“It was a mobile home on five acres; it's located right about where they said the fire started,” Montgomery said. “We didn't have any insurance.”

All Montgomery did have was her old Ford Mustang and a rubber container full of family keepsakes. She was waiting for the rest of her family in the parking lot of the small city hall.

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