Fourteen Fires Burning in Oklahoma on Saturday
At least 120 structures are destroyed
Christopher Carlson sprang into action when smoke and embers ushered a fire that threatened to envelop his Noble, Oklahoma, home.After taking his 12-year-old stepson to safety, Carlson raced against time to assist neighbors and try to save his trailer from one of more than a dozen wildfires that, as of Saturday, had destroyed more than 120 structures.
“That’s what we do in Oklahoma,” Carlson told CNN on Saturday from Norman. “We help each other because we are prone to tornadoes, disasters and fires.”
Conditions across the state remained critical, state officials said, with high temperatures and winds stoked by a cold front.
The Noble fire in Cleveland County, south of Oklahoma City, affected about 7,800 acres and had destroyed 25 structures — including homes and outbuildings — as of Saturday, officials said.
Residents Friday helped shovel dirt around Carlson’s residence to protect it from flames. He checked on neighbors to ensure they were aware of the danger.
Dressed in flip-flops and shorts, Carlson doused the outside of his home, which eventually lost several rooms to the fire. Carlson, who has asthma, said he suffered minor burns, smoke inhalation and respiratory failure.
Fourteen fires were burning Saturday across the state, according to Michelle Finch-Walker, spokeswoman for Oklahoma Forestry Services.
Gov. Mary Fallin toured Luther, where at least 56 structures were lost to a 2,600-acre fire.
Resident Joe Love told CNN Oklahoma City affiliate KOCO that he stayed in his residence as long as he could.
“When I left, the fire was right at my back door,” said Love. “I don’t know what to think right now. I’m just numb to the whole deal.”
A fire in Creek County, southwest of Tulsa, had mushroomed to 32,000 acres. Forty structures were reported lost. “Those numbers are going to grow,” said Finch-Walker. “It is rolling. It is a big fire.”
Six helicopters had been deployed, according to Jerry Lojka, spokesman for the state department of emergency management. Officials were unable to handle additional requests.
“This is a repeat of yesterday,” Lojka told CNN. “The fires that started to come under control last night are back to full fire.”
Oklahoma City tied a record of 113 degrees on Friday, and Saturday’s reading was expected to be around 107 — exacting a toll on firefighters.
Seven firefighters suffered heat-related injuries Friday in Luther, said Lojka. One of them and a trooper were transported to a hospital for treatment.
Oklahoma, like much of the nation, has been locked in an extreme drought, making fire conditions critical.
Officials are urging residents to have an evacuation plan ready and to take extreme precautions outdoors, including limited outdoor grilling and not driving vehicles across bone-dry grass.
“It doesn’t take much to strike a blaze in these conditions,” said Finch-Walker.
“Once the fire gets into a highly vegetative area with a lot of trees it will create its own wind,” Lojka said.
Marc Austin, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Norman, said the region will see somewhat better conditions Sunday, but temperatures will stay in the low 100s next week.
Rainfall for the year is 2 inches below normal, but the deficit for the summer is 6.2 inches — meaning most of the rain fell by spring.
A cold front in northwestern Oklahoma brought increased wind speeds to an area enduring sweltering temperatures.
“It makes for a pretty nasty fire weather scenario,” said Austin.