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
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.
Lara O'Leary, spokeswoman for Emergency Medical Services Authority, said the firefighter was taken to a hospital in good condition.
She said a 60-year-old woman also had to be taken from the scene Tuesday afternoon because of breathing problems. The woman was taken to a Midwest City hospital in good condition, O'Leary said.
Keeping an eye on it
Several homes and other structures burned in the fire, and National Guard helicopters were called in to drop water on the fire using large buckets.
Though some homes were lost, but firefighters were able to save several structures, Woodard said.
Late Tuesday, Woodard said at least 12 homes had burned.
“That's very preliminary. There's a good possibility that there could be 20,” he said.
Judy Rackett, who lives off Sooner Road in The Gregory's Addition, said: “I just got home from work and saw it. We are watching it closely because we may have to evacuate if they tell us to. They said if the winds shift, it could move toward us, but right now it seems to be moving to the north.”
Officials blamed Oklahoma's unprecedented heat wave and drought, which combined with the wind made conditions right for a devastating wildfire. Temperatures in Oklahoma City reached 103 Tuesday, extending the city's record number of days with triple digit heat to 57.
“This reminds me a lot of the fire we had a few years ago. I just hope that wind keeps blowing north because if it shifts, we could be in trouble. They haven't asked us to evacuate yet, but I'm keeping a close eye on it,” said Harold Gilkey, another resident of The Gregory's Addition.
Officials said the fire started about 12:20 p.m. near Sooner Road and NE 50 and spread north in the direction of NE 63.
“We had our irrigation system going, but we lost power and we lost the water. We are just waiting to see what direction the wind shifts and hoping it doesn't hit us,” said Richard Peterson, manager of Canadian Valley Sod Farm at Wilshire and Newberry Road.
The fire left about 7,300 Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. customers without power in the Arcadia, Spencer and Jones areas.
“We're attempting to route power around problems where we can and get those customers up as quickly as we can,” spokesman Brian Alford said.
OG&E crews cannot do anything to repair the damage until the fire is extinguished, Alford said.
“We'll begin assessing the damage to the system just as quickly as we are able to move into those affected areas,” Alford said.
Rodney Pesch, unit operation supervisor for Oklahoma City Animal Shelter field services, said crews are helping evacuate and house livestock animals away from the flames. He said the shelter designated an area to hold about 20 livestock animals, mainly horses.
Owners can call the city animal shelter at 297-3100 to retrieve their animals when the area is reopened.
Others offered their property on Twitter for those needing to evacuate horses and opened homes to fellow city residents needing a place to stay.
“We've had to evacuate about 20 horses,” said Charlotte Lupton, of Reflections Miniature Horse Farm at Acorn Road and Air Depot, about 2 p.m. “This is the last load. We're planning on taking them about three miles away and waiting it out.”
Richard Morren said his farm was east of the fire on NE 63.
“I've got about 160 acres that I farm,” Morren said. “I'm not worried about my place right now, but I'm worried about other people I know out here. It's looking bad.”
At 10 p.m. Tuesday night, the Red Cross opened an overnight shelter for residents affected by the wildfires at the Forest Park Community Center at 4203 N Coltrane.
Click to view a larger evacuation map
View Oklahoma City wildfire evacuation zone in a larger map