Emergency Officials Warn of Life-Threatening Fire Conditions In Northwest Oklahoma

Apr 18, 2018

Updated Wednesday, April 18 at 10:05 a.m.

Residents of Seiling and Oakwood were evacuated in northwest Oklahoma yesterday, as large fires grew due to high winds, low humidity, and drought conditions.

But officials with Oklahoma Forestry Services say new fire starts were kept to a minimum yesterday, despite the historic fire weather conditions.

A large portion of western Oklahoma is under a Red Flag Fire Warning for most of today. Officials say new fires will likely spread quickly and be hard to contain. Additional fire warnings exist in northern and northeast Oklahoma. Winds are forcast to be in the 15-25 mph range today, with gusts as high as 30 mph.

A Governor's Burn Ban is still in place for a large portion of the state.

Updated Tuesday, April 17 at 4:05 p.m.

Emergency officials are warning of “historic,” life-threatening fire conditions today as hundreds of firefighters in rural areas battle blazes that have already killed two people and injured nine others.

Crews have made progress on a fire in Woodward County, but are having a harder time containing the Rhea Fire in Dewey County, which has torched at least 50 homes and nearly 250,000 acres.

The Dewey County Sherriff has recommended residents of the town of Seiling to evacuate, as wildfires threaten the community.

Shawna Hartman with the state forestry office says the potential for dangerous wildfires is the worst it's been in a decade.

"If a spark were to land in a receptive fuel bed, it has a 100 percent probability of ignition."

Last week, Governor Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency for 52 counties. Forecasters say conditions could improve by the end of the week.

ORIGINAL POST - Monday, April 16

Fire crews worked through the weekend to contain a dozen wildfires in western and northwestern Oklahoma. Authorities say the fires killed two people and injured seven others.

Many of the fires ignited last week. Gusty winds and low humidity meant the flames spread rapidly through drought-stricken trees and brush, torching homes, buildings and more than 300,000 acres.

Emergency management officials say a 61-year-old man died from fire-related injuries near the town of Leedey, and a woman was killed in her car outside a home near Seiling.

In a briefing, state fire management chief Mark Goeller said firefighters focused on specific hotspots because critical fire conditions could worsen this week.

"(We're) really wanting to concentrate on those areas where we have heavy fuels and the potential for the fire to escape and continue to growth."

Officials evacuated the towns of Vici, Seiling, Taloga and Putnam, due to the fires.

Last week, Governor Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency for 52 counties.