Gov. Fallin Declares State Of Emergency, Visits Choctaw Command Post

Friday, March 11th 2011, 5:59 pm
By: News 9

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin has declared a State of Emergency for all 77 counties in Oklahoma has wildfires rage across the state.

More than two dozen fires burned Friday in Oklahoma, fueled by strong winds, low humidity and warm temperatures.

Three Oklahoma representatives are scheduled to tour areas in Harrah that were devastated by wildfires on Friday.

Governor Mary Fallin, U.S. Representative James Lankford and Commissioner Brian Maughan are planning to tour the area for about an hour Saturday morning.

Wildfires that have caused extensive damage in Oklahoma and Texas are dying down Saturday. Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management spokeswoman Michelann Ooten says there are still a few hotspots and areas with smoke but it's nothing like what the state experienced Friday.

Unseasonably warm temperatures and winds with gusts of over 40 mph helped fuel fires that destroyed at least 49 homes.

Fires also destroyed a handful of homes and charred more than 3,000 acres in Texas.

Ooten said Saturday that weather conditions had improved, with the wind dying down and a cold front moving in.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with all Oklahomans who have been impacted by these fires as well as our emergency responders in harms' way," said Fallin. "We know homes, as well as other property, have been lost and we will work to do everything we can to help Oklahomans during their time of need."

Fallin visited the frontline of one of the wildfires Friday.  She stopped at the command post for the Choctaw wildfire to get an update on the size of the fire, and to thank firefighters and emergency responders for all their hard work.

Under the Executive Order, state agencies can make emergency purchases and acquisitions needed to expedite the delivery of resources to local jurisdictions. The declaration also marks a first step toward seeking federal assistance should it be necessary.

The American Red Cross closed an overnight shelter at Harmony Christian Church in Choctaw on Saturday morning.

"We would like to thank everyone at Harmony Christian Church for their hospitality and kindness during this tragedy," said Rusty Surette, assistant director for public relations at the American Red Cross of Central Oklahoma.

The Harrah Church was overnight as a command post for first responders. Early Friday, evacuated residents used the church as a place of refuge.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.