Wildlife Refuge Fire Burns Thousands Of Acres

Thursday, September 8th 2011, 9:45 pm
By: News 9

Darren Brown, News 9

LAWTON, Oklahoma -- People usually visit the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge to see the buffalo. Today they saw something different.

Lyndsey Wheeler has lived in nearby Lawton only a short time, and when she saw the fire last week, she definitely took notice.

"The last four days it's burned thousands of acres. I was driving all the way in south Lawton, and I saw it and I'm like, ‘Oohh!'"

Richard Hadley traveled from California to help fight the fire. Crews from all over the country have been stretched to the limit this year, including Oklahoma.

"This has burned roughly 46 percent or almost half of the refuge," he said.

"There's 14 what we call type one teams available, that deal with some of the larger fires, and we're up on rotation this time.

"For the refuge, it's a concern because they've lost a lot of their habitat for the grazing bison herds and longhorn cattle as well as some of the other wildlife they're managing," Hadley said.

In the middle of destruction, vitality can sometimes be found, though. This is the first time that Cache High School's cross-country team has been able to practice in the refuge since last week.

Firefighters say that if all goes well, they could have the fire 80 to 90 percent contained by Thursday night, but if conditions don't improve, then the rest of the refuge, and all the animals inside, could still be treading on dangerous ground.