Oklahoma Wildfire That Destroyed 13 Homes Under Control, Residents Return

June 27, 2011

A massive wildfire that destroyed 13 homes the Medicine Park, Okla., area was contained on June 25, allowing residents to return to their homes.

Firefighters from a few local agencies remained on the scene to mop up hot spots, but the fire was under control after crews worked “diligently” overnight to contain it, Comanche County spokesman Chris Killmer said.

Retired U.S. Army Col. Henry Sabine, the town’s vice mayor, said the flames came within 500 feet of his two-story wooden house and he was grateful for the firefighters’ work.

“The historic town of Medicine Park was extremely lucky,” he said. “The fire burned through an area of the town with few residents. It missed the entire historic business district. The firefighters were able to save all but two of the homes on Big Rock. There had to be historic efforts.

“It’s amazing how many homes they were able to save, considering the path of the fire.”

Medicine Park is located at the entrance to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, about 80 miles southwest of Oklahoma City. Sabine said most residents “will rest this weekend and Monday, we will do what we always do when there’s a crisis. We’ll pull our bootstraps up and start pulling it all together.”

The fire started in the afternoon on June 23 on the Fort Sill U.S. Army post and high winds and tinder-dry conditions quickly fueled the blaze, which burned about 5,500 acres. About 1,500 people had to be evacuated from their homes, and one firefighter suffered a minor foot injury.

The blaze tore through the Mt. Valley mobile home park, reducing seven mobile homes to a pile of ashy rubble and twisted metal frames. Charred bicycles and children’s toys littered the small neighborhood, along with a minivan completely gutted by flames.

At least two homes were burned to the ground in the nearby Big Rock neighborhood, a collection of larger homes tucked into the rugged foothills near the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge.

Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb declared a state of emergency June 24 for 33 Oklahoma counties because of extreme or exceptional drought conditions and associated wildfires. The executive order is the first step toward seeking federal assistance for victims of the fires, should that be necessary.

Lamb issued the declaration at the request of Gov. Mary Fallin, who is in Ireland this week attending her daughter’s wedding.

Officials at Fort Sill believe the fire resulted from “military training,” spokeswoman Emily Kelley said, adding an investigation into a specific cause would start once the fire had been contained.

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