40 Homes Destroyed in Deadly Okla. Wildfire

August 14, 2011

Residents in Pawnee County, Okla. have started to sift through the ashes following a wildfire that destroyed nearly 40 homes and may have done up to $20 million worth of damage, according to official estimates.

Dozens of firefighters were needed to fight a blaze that started last Sunday and quickly gained strength. It took two days for crews to bring the fire under control.

One person was found dead inside a home that burned. Authorities had not released the person’s identity Saturday, but KOKI-TV reported that a Terlton man said his brother, Hollis Edgar, died in the fire.

“It felt like a storm from hell or something,” said Frank Edgar, who said his home was spared, but his family’s old home was destroyed. “Embers flying in the air and touching the ground and everywhere they touched, fire flames would follow them.”

Hollis Edgar, 81, ignored a sheriff’s warnings to evacuate his home because he thought he would be safe, Frank Edgar told KOKI-TV.

“He said I better watch the fire. It was coming our way,” Frank Edgar said.

Justin Sessions sifted through pieces of scrap metal among the ashes of his neighbors’ destroyed home. He told KJRH-TV that he was devastated.

“It’s hard to believe,” he said. “I’ve been here since I was 3 years old and never seen anything like this.”

State insurance commissioner John Doak said many homeowners didn’t have coverage because they thought it was too expensive.

The wildfires during this drought-stricken summer may cause insurance premiums to go up, but it was too soon to tell, Doak said.

“To replace a $100,000 home, for example, a couple thousand dollars a year is probably very good to protect your investment,” Doak told KJRH-TV.

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