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Wildfire flare-ups continue in NE Oklahoma City; church burns down early Wednesday morning

People have not been allowed back into the area of the wildfires
BY MATT PATTERSON, TIFFANY GIBSON and BRYAN DEAN Modified: August 31, 2011 at 11:02 am •  Published: August 30, 2011

Wednesday update: 11:00 a.m.

The city manager of Oklahoma City has requested assistance from the Oklahoma National Guard helicopters again Wednesday to survey damage and check for hot spots.

Several large homes are threatened between Air Depot and Midwest Boulevard along Britton Road due to exploding cedar trees that are causing large flare-ups.

Crews from Edmond, Del City, Midwest City and Jones are helping Oklahoma City crews along Prosper Drive and Britton as city firefighters are spread thin.

People have not been allowed back into the area of the wildfires. On the south side of NE 71 in the 6100 block, a house and about 20 vehicles are charred.

Harrison Bethel Baptist Church at 6300 NE 71 burned down at 4:00 a.m. Wednesday.

Church pastor The Rev. Johnny Moore said the church had been here about 30 years and he has been pastor 10 years.

"In a situation like this you're kind of numb. Yet you have the assurance that God is going to walk us through and that we're going to be alright," Moore said. "but at this point I'm still somewhat numb because of the fire."

Moore said the 100 member congregation will have a prayer meeting at 7 p.m. on the grounds to pray and to discuss the future of the church. He said the building is insured.

Son of the pastor Johnny Moore Jr. said he was called about 4 a.m. and was told the church was burning and had caught fire about 2:00 a.m.

"I started to cry. I couldn't believe that had happened. "I'm standing on the word of God. Believe in God, that is all I know to do."

Church members gathered in a circle and held hands as Rev. Moore prayed. Afterward, Cornell Neal, 16, said he could not believe the church he has gone to all his life where he was baptized is gone.

"I'm devastated," Neal said. "I couldn't believe it when my mom told me. We decently will rebuild."

As church members left, police continued to restrict motorists from entering the area with roadblocks at intersections from Sooner Road to Midwest Boulevard.

Firefighters were responding to NE 102 and Midwest Boulevard where rekindling fire is keeping crews busy at 8:15 a.m. and is near several homes, according to fire radio reports

Tuesday's firefight

Firefighters struggled to keep up Tuesday as a massive wildfire fueled by strong winds in northeast Oklahoma City scorched parched yellow grass and lit up large cedar trees that burned like giant torches.

The flames spread quickly, burning at least 12 houses, knocking out power to more than 7,000 homes and businesses and forcing the evacuation of hundreds of houses just north of NE 50 to Britton Road between Sooner Road and Air Depot Boulevard.

Late Tuesday, firefighters said the fire was contained.

The fire had burned across 4,000 to 5,000 acres, Deputy Fire Chief Marc Woodard said.

The cloud of gray and black smoke could be seen miles away as winds as high as 26 miles per hour pushed the smoke and fire north-northeast.

Closer to the scene, bright orange flames shot into the air as the flames engulfed wooded areas.

Oklahoma County Emergency Manager David Barnes said the wildfire threatened homes northwest of Spencer. He said residents living between Sooner Road and Air Depot Boulevard and between NE 50, Wilshire Boulevard and Britton Road were urged to evacuate.

Between 50 and 80 Oklahoma City firefighters worked to get the wildfire under control, Woodard said. One firefighter was treated for minor burns, and another was taken to a hospital complaining of chest pains, he said. Neither of their names were released Tuesday.

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