Wildfire Season in Oklahoma
In this second year of severe drought and exceptionally high temperatures, the wildfires are back again.
We have one to our north, not so very far from my biking area along the North Canadian River. Current information indicates this one was arson, set in an area south of Luther, apparently with the intent to burn out the town. Doing a pretty good job of it, too. As I write this, over 25 homes are gone, and that’s not a big town. This one is no threat to us unless the wind somehow turns around in the opposite direction. Highly improbable.
Some strangeness attaches to the story of arson. The tale we get is a witness saw a fellow tossing burning newspaper out the window or his vehicle into the grass and trees along the road. The witness was distraught making the emergency call and trying to get folks to evacuate. At some point, a couple of news agencies said the fire was not intentionally set, that they had found the vehicle and driver. Then the latest story is they decided that was not the right vehicle and driver. Part of what makes it spooky is who is involved with the investigation, and his connections with unsavory elements. However this turns out, I rather doubt we’ll ever know the truth.
Several miles to our south is another wildfire, spreading from a trash fire out near an unincorporated area known as Slaughterville. We saw the smoke from this midday, and it was a massive column already. Now it’s covering multiple square miles and spreading completely out of control. The are is highly rural with precious few through-roads to get into the spot fires which are breaking out constantly. Lots of trees and dry tall grass, and high winds. One advantage is the very large reservoir (Lake Thunderbird) just north which the bucket choppers can use to dump water on the fire. The other advantage is a very broad divided highway on the north side, just below the dam on that lake.
However, fires have jumped bigger obstacles in the past. This one is not a direct threat to us, but that could change if the wind shifts just a little bit. It’s past my bedtime and I’m watching the news to see if this thing turns out really bad for us. This post is likely to see updates below.
Update 1: Early morning reports (6-7 AM) indicate the fire to our north in Luther is contained within a perimeter. The fire officials say they believe they can hold that line, but it’s a huge area. They are offering only sketchy reports for the fire to our south in Slaughterville. That suggests they don’t have it contained and aren’t sure themselves where it has spread. Then again, it also suggests far fewer structures are at risk compared to the better covered arson in Luther.
Update 2: The Luther fire is contained and almost out. Reports say four dozen structures were lost. The Slaughterville fire is contained, but a loss accounting is still under way. There were fires near Geary, Stillwater, Tulsa and in Creek County, as well. Today there is one in Shawnee (35 miles east of here) near the Catholic college, St. Gregory. We are currently safe.
Update 3: Lots of little fires breaking out all over the state. Most of them are near tiny little towns, but these are remote enough to make response very slow and hard to shift limited resources. I’ve lost count, but I believe it’s about seven significant blazes across the state this evening. Anything further updates will be started in a new post.