100,000 Acres Burned, Firefighter Injured: The Latest On Western Okla. Wildfires

As firefighters work to contain wildfires in western Oklahoma, here are the latest updates to firefighting efforts in western Oklahoma.

Wednesday, February 28th 2024, 4:22 pm

By: News 9


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More than 100,000 acres have burned after wildfires engulfed parts of western Oklahoma on Tuesday. As of Wednesday morning, firefighters were working to contain blazes in parts of Ellis County.

A firefighter with the Greenleaf Fire Department was injured after two trucks collided due to low visibility. The firefighter was in the bed of the truck at the time of the collision, fell off, and was injured by a piece of equipment. The firefighter was med-flighted to Oklahoma City for treatment and is scheduled for surgery on Thursday, according to a post shared to social media.

Tuesday afternoon, residents in Shattuck and Gage were ordered to evacuate. Smoke Conditions so blinding that two firefighters were injured when their truck swerved to miss a tanker truck hauling water.

The fire is believed to have destroyed at least a dozen homes; so far, only the destruction of nine homes has been confirmed.

Due to high winds, air support has not been called in for support, however, the forestry service is bringing in a plane Wednesday morning to help map out the area and get a better handle on the damage and acres burned.

State emergency management also says a third firefighter had heat illness and is recovering.

INJURIES

According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, four injuries related to the fires have been reported by area hospitals.

  1. Heat-related illness – 1
  2. Transportation-related – 3

MASS CARE

Oklahoma State Department of Health reports eight patients from Newman Memorial Hospital and 46 residents from Shattuck Nursing Center were returned to those locations earlier today following yesterday’s evacuations. The Regional Emergency Medical System provided transportation for the evacuations.

All evacuation shelters are now closed.

FIRE UPDATES

Emergency managers report 13 homes burned in the fires:

Beaver County – 3 homes (2 were uninhabited)

Ellis County – 9 homes

Roger Mills County – 1 home

Evacuations & Road Closures

A fire near Gage closed Highway 46. Shattuck and Gage were evacuated.

Highway 412 near Slapout was also closed on Tuesday.

A fire near Roger Mills County has closed OK-33 at the state line with Texas near North 1680 Road. Deputies have traffic shut down at the Hitching Post near OK-30 and OK-33.

A fire in Woodward prompted the evacuation of Fort Supply and the areas around Fort Supply Lake, according to the Woodward County Sheriff. The evacuation has since been lifted, but fires remain prominent to the south.

A grass fire near Ellis County closed US-283 and County Road 37 to Oklahoma 15, according to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. The road has since reopened.

Oklahoma State Department of Health reports patients at Newman Memorial Hospital and residents at Shattuck Nursing Center were evacuated due to the fires in Ellis County. The Regional Emergency Medical System provided transportation for the evacuations.

Fargo-Gage Public Schools have canceled classes tomorrow because of these fires.

What Does It Take For Air Support To Be Called?

It takes some steps to get them involved in the firefight.

The Oklahoma Emergency Manager says if local fire officials wanted it, they'd have to request it from the state emergency operation center.

Then they'd get the Forestry service and cabinet secretary involved to evaluate the conditions.

And if they determine the National Guard is needed for air support, the request goes to the governor for approval.

DIAL 211

For Oklahoma residents seeking non-emergency disaster or health and human service information, please contact 2-1-1.

Governor Greg Abbott today issued a disaster declaration for 60 Texas counties in response to widespread wildfire activity throughout the state. Additional counties may be added if conditions warrant. Governor Abbott also directed the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) to activate additional state emergency response resources to support local firefighters responding to multiple wildfires burning in Texas.

What causes wildfires?

Wildfires are often caused when there are high winds and dry conditions, according to the Oklahoma Forestry Services. The most common cause of wildfires is when burning debris is not properly contained and sparks or burning trash blow into the air, the Forestry Services website states. According to OFS, Oklahomans can help prevent fires if they:

  1. Take care when pulling off a road or driving into a field. Hot catalytic converters can ignite vegetation.
  2. Avoid burning trash. Even a barrel covered with a screen can allow a spark to escape, igniting nearby vegetation.
  3. Do not use fireworks.
  4. Extinguish cigarettes in ashtrays. Never toss a cigarette out of a car window, and don’t put cigarettes out on the ground.
  5. Keep a fire extinguisher and water handy when working outdoors with equipment that gets hot or involves sparks, such as welding equipment. Water down outdoor work areas in advance.

If advised to evacuate, do so immediately. Choose a route away from the fire hazard and be alert to changes in the speed and direction of the fire and its smoke.

Monitor fire risk and burn bans in your area on the Oklahoma Mesonet's OK-FIRE webpage. 

When weather conditions make wildfires more likely in your area, you can prepare by taking the following precautions, according to the OFS:

  1. Keep firefighting tools handy, such as a ladder long enough to reach the roof, shovel, rake, and buckets.
  2. Place connected garden hoses on all sides of the house for emergency use.
  3. Know all emergency exits from your house.
  4. Learn all routes leading out of your neighborhood.

If a fire is approaching, you can ake the following actions, according to the OFS:

  1. Park your car facing the direction of escape.
  2. Shut off the gas at the meter, and know only a qualified professional can safely turn the gas back on.
  3. Turn off propane tanks.
  4. Place combustible patio furniture inside.

For more information about wildfire safety, visit the following websites:

Oklahoma Firewise

Oklahoma Forestry Services

Wildfires on large areas of land can be nearly as impossible to prevent, and difficult to control. Wildfires can threaten lives, homes, communities, and natural and cultural resources.

To report a wildfire, do so based on your designated area.

In the OFS designated initial attack area (see map):

  1. Northeastern Oklahoma: 1-800-299-3473
  2. East Central Oklahoma: 1-800-375-2056
  3. Southeastern Oklahoma: 1-800-299-2468

For all other areas in Oklahoma, report fires to the nearest fire department or CALL 911.

REPORT ARSON

1-866-NO ARSON (866-662-7766) or to your nearest OFS forester.

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