Wildfires Ravage Central Oklahoma (3/11/2011)


Several major wildfires occured yesterday here in central Oklahoma. The perfect combination of temperatures of 75-80, low humidity of 10-20%, gusty south-southwest winds of 25 to 35 miles per hour sustained with gusts to 50 miles per hour, and a severe long-term drought set the stage for more than 3 dozen fires in the Sooner state. Here I will speak of 3 that occured here in the Oklahoma City metro here.

At around noon local time, a pair of wildfires burned west of the town of Goldsby. A couple thousand acres easily burnt. Also, State Highway 9 from Norman to Blanchard, OK was closed due to the fire By the end of the day, that fire was contained, not before damaging many outbuildings and 6 homes. Riverwind Casino was placed on high alert as the fires burnt 2-3 miles west of the casino, but never was evacuated. Firefighters also continue to monitor any hot spots that could potentially flare up. The river that separates Goldsby & Norman, the Canadian River, was an added bonus in stopping this fire.

Another pair of fires occured in central Oklahoma. I will cover both of those. The first was set near SE 15th & Hiawasee Road near the far eastern parts of Midwest City. I went to see what I could find out as soon as I seen the first plumes of smoke from this fire. First of all, a pair of pics of the plumes from this fire from a few miles away.

Picture 1 of Plume from Midwest City/Choctaw Fire

Picture #2 of Midwest City/Choctaw Fire

As I drove east on SE 15th, I got closer to the plumes & was routed north on Hiawasee. After an east turn on Reno & a south turn at Henney, I continued driving south on Henney looking for a way to get out. I made a turn into a neighborhood, just near of SE 15th & Henney. As I was turning around, I nearly got caught in that fire.

Here is a pic of me driving through the smoke near SE 15th & Henney Rd.

In the Midst of a Firestorm

I want to let you know that within 1-2 hours of me driving through that neighborhood, several homes in that neighborhood, were destroyed. That fire continued NE-ward and was finally contained a few hours later.

At mid-afternoon, the smoke plumes showed up nicely on StormTrakker radar. Here is a pic of that image:

Radar Imagery of Smoke Plumes at 3:52 CT from Oklahoma City

The third fire occured in the Harrah/Newalla area in eastern Oklahoma. The fire destroyed 30 homes & numerous out-buildings. The fires threatened both the Harrah High School & Harrah Jr. High School. Flames came close to the Jr. High (within feet of the school) but the school was saved. An agriculture building burnt at the Harrah High School, but the school was spared. Buildings were in flames all over the Harrah area Friday afternoon along NE 23rd between Luther Road and Dobbs Road. Also destroyed in the fire was a few businesses, including a business that housed a smoke shop. Also, this fire threatened the Horseshoe Lake Power Plant at NE 36th St & Luther Rd. but the North Canadian River stopped the northward progress of this fire as well.

By the time all was said and done, at least 45 homes and numerous out buildings were destroyed. Initially, all inital fires were not intentionally set. However, in the Harrah area, Harrah police are looking for a white or gray single cab late ’80s- or ’90s-model pickup with two occupants who they think may have started one fire near Luther Road and Rock Creek. That fire was quickly contained. Sheriff John Whetsel of the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Department even stated that if you set a fire intentionally & that fire claims lives, you will be charged with felony murder.

You can read more at the Oklahoman newspaper website by going here. They did a write highlight more of the fires than I could here as well. Read their article at: http://www.newsok.com

The wildfire threat, diminishes for a few days as some minor rain chances & cooler temperatures will aid in keeping wildfires down. The middle & end of next week, this situation could occur once again.

Til next time, folks. Keep watching the skies. Be safe and, as always, weather aware!

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