Medicine Park Residents Return After Fire

Thursday, June 23rd 2011, 9:51 pm
By: News 9

Gan Matthews, News 9

MEDICINE PARK, Oklahoma -- Nearly 1,500 residents returned to their homes after a stubborn wildfire in Comanche County that threatened the small town of Medicine Park was brought under control Saturday morning.  

"Crews worked diligently overnight to fully contain the fire which caused the evacuation of more than 500 homes and destroyed 13," a representative of the Comanche County Emergency Management System said Saturday in a news release.

"All additional resources are being released as a few local fire departments remain on scene continuing 'mop-up' operations on 'hot spots.'"

Residents were allowed to return to their homes starting at 10 a.m. Saturday.

The wildfire began on Fort Sill's West range in the impact area Thursday afternoon. The fire spread over 4,000 acres on the Fort. It eventually jumped over Highway 49 and headed to Medicine Park late Thursday evening causing numerous evacuations and destroying several homes.

Around 3:30 p.m. Friday, the Fort Sill side of the fire near Lake LETRA, west of Medicine Park, rapidly expanded and jumped the Northern Boundary Road.  Fire Crews, along with National Guard helicopters, quickly responded to this flare up and are working to contain it and prevent it from jumping Oklahoma 49 west of Medicine Park.

Shortly after noon Friday, the fire was re-fueled by winds which pushed it farther northeast where it crossed Oklahoma 58 just south of Lake Lawtonka. 

Approximately 80 additional evacuations took place due to fire threatening homes in the area.  That flare-up was contained shortly after 1:00 p.m.

Residents remained evacuated overnight Friday. There are approximately 500 homes in the Medicine Park area, including Lake Lawtonka and Schoolhouse Slough. The majority of those homes have been affected by fire and/or smoke.

Most people in town left, but a few refuse to leave their homes.

"I'm really not able to go in and say you have to leave your residence right now," said Medicine Park Police Chief Rod McKee during the worst of the blaze. "But, I can strongly suggest you leave your residence."

An evacuation shelter was set up on Fort Sill at Honeycutt Gym (Ft Sill Blvd & Randolph Rd ) where 20 people stayed overnight. 

Local fire & law enforcement, as well as numerous Fire Task Forces from across southwest Oklahoma, Army personnel, an Incident Management Team and several support agencies responded to the fire.

The fires were difficult to fight because of the dense wooded terrain. So, in addition to the several fire crews on the scene, authorities brought in bull dozers and helicopters equipped with water buckets. At 10:30 Friday morning, it was estimated that 65 percent of the Fort Sill fire was contained.

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Around 1,500 acres (Off-Post around Medicine Park) have been burned. Approximately 13 homes (7 trailers & 6 homes) have been destroyed. Several outbuildings have also been destroyed and an unknown number of homes damaged.

No major injuries or deaths have been reported.

Two National Guard helicopters were requested. Numerous Fire Task Forces from across the State have been assisting (or requested). 

As of 9 a.m. Friday, there were approximately 25 trucks with 60 firefighters actively fighting the fire.