Oklahoma Forestry Services

Years of cuts in funding appropriated by the Legislatures means Oklahoma is unable to replace retiring or exiting wild land fire experts and increasingly relies on other states to fight its largest, most dangerous wildfires.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Crews have worked for more than a week to contain a massive wildfire that has torched more than a thousand square miles and killed one person and thousands of head of livestock in northwestern parts of Oklahoma. State budget cuts mean Oklahoma increasingly depends on other states to fight its largest and most dangerous wildfires.

A week after the fire started, state forestry director George Geissler oversaw the state’s response at a makeshift operations center at the Woodward County Fairgrounds.

Oklahoma Forestry Services says it's closing four offices and reducing services as part of a restructuring program forced by budget reductions.

Forestry Services Director George Geissler says the agency plans to reallocate resources to maximize its remaining services. While some services will no longer be available to landowners in western Oklahoma, all 77 Oklahoma counties will continue to receive wildfire suppression support.

Oklahoma Forestry Services

A coalition of firefighters from five states on Friday worked to contain a wildfire near Woodward in northwestern Oklahoma. The flames scorched more than 57,000 acres.

High winds caused power lines to arc earlier in the week, sparking the fire. Those same winds spread the flames over ninety square miles of dry grassland in Woodward and Harper Counties. No one has been hurt, but farm equipment was engulfed. Fence posts and power poles were torched. A full assessment is underway, but several buildings were likely damaged by flames.

Roy Anderson / Oklahoma Highway Patrol

Oklahoma authorities on Tuesday urged residents of the small town of Freedom to evacuate as a wildfire flared in the same area near the border with Kansas where blazes last month scorched hundreds of square miles.

The National Weather Service warned that most of the state was under critical to extremely critical fire conditions due to dry air, warm temperatures and strong winds. Blazes also broke out across Kansas, where some small-town residents were forced to leave their homes. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

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Oklahoma Forestry Services is urging people around the state to delay any burning over the next few days because of a high fire danger.

Communications specialist Michelle Finch-Walker says Thursday will bring high temperatures with low humidity and strong winds, making it easier for fires to start and spread.