Investigators Say Controlled Burn not Cause of Oklahoma Wildfire

By Kristi Eaton | May 8, 2014

A stubborn wildfire that has killed one person and destroyed at least 10 homes continued to burn north of Oklahoma City on as investigators narrowed down the cause of the blaze.

The wildfire in rural Logan County has scorched more than 5 square miles since it erupted May 4, and investigators are now saying it was not started by a controlled burn gone awry as originally thought.

“From where the witnesses thought the fire was coming from, (it) was a place where there was a brush pile an individual had burned in the past on some controlled burns, and they thought it was just coming from there again,” said Oklahoma Incident Management Team spokesman Stan May.

However, he said, investigators “found the point of origin to be in a different spot,” which led them to other theories for the cause. None of those have been released.

May said more information should be released in the coming days.

Meanwhile, another fire north of Woodward threatened homes on May 6. Woodward County Emergency Manager Matt Lehenbauer said about two dozen homes were being evacuated. Two National Guard helicopters were on their way to provide aerial support, and task forces from Alfalfa County and the Quapaw Tribe also were en route, said Keli Cain, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management.

Other fires have popped up in Dewey and Pawnee counties. A National Guard helicopter was being deployed to help with the fire in Pawnee, which has burned more than 1,500 acres, according to the Department of Emergency Management.

Gov. Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency for counties throughout Oklahoma and a burn ban for 36 counties mostly in western and south-central Oklahoma.

In Logan County, authorities said a 56-year-old man was killed when he refused to leave his mobile home, and about 100 firefighters have been treated on scene for heat-related issues, May said.

May said firefighters were working to fully contain the fire. Helicopters were on standby to drop water on any flare-ups.

More than 40 structures have been destroyed in the fire, at least 10 of which were occupied, authorities said. Nine people spent Monday night at a Red Cross shelter in Guthrie, said Ken Garcia, spokesman for the American Red Cross in central and western Oklahoma. Caseworkers were meeting with families affected by the fire on Tuesday to see what assistance was needed.

Mandy and Jeremy Barnett were just a few of the people seeking help from the Red Cross. The parents of five kids, ages 6 months to 18 years old, lost their mobile home in the Logan County fire. While the family was able to take some possessions with them before they left, everything else has been lost and the home was not insured.

“I don’t know what to do,” Mandy, 38, said as her youngest bounced in her lap and two of her boys chased each other through the church shelter.

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