Deadly Wildfire Spreads in Oklahoma, 1,000 Evacuate

By Kristi Eaton | May 6, 2014

Firefighters facing another hot and windy forecast worked on May 5 to battle a large wildfire in central Oklahoma that destroyed at least six homes and left one person dead after a controlled burn spread out of control.

The wildfire broke out the previous afternoon near Guthrie and by 9 p.m. had burned an estimated 4 to 6 square miles of land as well as several homes, Guthrie Fire Department Chief Eric Harlow said. By Monday, May 5, the fire was threatening about 150 additional homes; Harlow said the blaze was about 75 percent contained.

About 1,000 people were evacuated from homes in the city about 35 miles north of Oklahoma City on Sunday, according to the fire department. Harlow said a 56-year-old man who did not leave was found dead in his home Sunday night.

Temperatures were expected to hit 100 degrees, with winds gusting from the south at 33 mph. Tuesday’s winds were expected to be higher still, enhancing the chance that the fire could spread more.

“It’s not that big … but the potential is there,” said Capt. Stan May of the Oklahoma Incident Management Team. He said two Black Hawk UH-60 helicopters from the Army National Guard were being sent in to help put water on the fire, with a third on standby.

Rains last week had left emergency crews hopeful that the fire danger would be reduced, but Sunday’s fire “managed to slip by us,” May said.

Insurance Commissioner John Doak had planned to tour the area Monday, but had to wait until the fire was more under control, spokeswoman Kesha Keith said.

The Guthrie Fire Department said six homes were destroyed and that the number of damaged or destroyed homes was expected to rise Monday. Fire department crews assessed the fire and damage by helicopter at daybreak Monday.

Tabitha Diamond, who lives a few miles from Guthrie, told KOCO-TV that she was returning from a music festival in Noble when she saw the flames and sped home. The fire missed her place but destroyed a nearby trailer home.

“It didn’t get close enough, but it got too close,” she said.

The American Red Cross set up a shelter at a church in Guthrie for those affected by the fire.

Winds are expected to gust to 36 mph and reach 39 mph Wednesday, the National Weather Service said. The next chance of rain arrives Wednesday.

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