A series of large fires have been burning in northwestern Oklahoma since last week. Firefighters have gained a lot of ground on many of the fires, but a couple remain active and dangerous. Last week, the fires prompted the evacuations of hundreds of people, several homes were destroyed, and two people died. The fires in total were covering more than 300,000 acres across the state. The Oklahoma Forestry Service says the state is still under a “historic fire danger.” On Friday, a state of emergency was declared in 52 counties in Oklahoma due to the wildfires and drought conditions, as windy conditions helped the fires spread. A burn ban is in effect for 36 counties. Here are maps of where the fires and evacuations currently are as of Thursday, April 19.
Locations & Sizes of the Oklahoma Fires for Thursday, April 19
You can find an interactive map of the Oklahoma fires here, or embedded below, courtesy of MappingSupport.com. This map could be very helpful to people in the area. Gmap4 describes the map this way: “Here is a Google + GIS map with the latest MODIS satellite hotspot data for the Oklahoma fires. Each time you open the map you will see the most recent hotspot data that is hosted on federal GIS servers. Typically this data is updated twice per day. Click the map and follow the link for the current fire weather forecast. Click Map tips in the upper left corner for the map legend and more information.”
The Rhea fire (sometimes called the Dewey fire) is the largest of all the Oklahoma wildfires and still quite active. It started around 2 p.m. on April 12, nine miles southeast of Leedey in Dewey County, OKC Fox reported. It grew to 19,000 acres by Thursday night. The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry reported that on Friday, it was 82,000 acres. By the morning of Sunday, April 15, the Rhea fire was still the same size that it was on Saturday: 242,000 acres and only 3 percent contained. By Thursday, April 19, the fire had grown to 283,095 acres and was 15 percent contained.
On Thursday, Oklahoma Forestry Services shared on Facebook that the northeast side of the fire (southeast of Seiling and east of US Highway 270) was the most active part of the fire, with strong winds causing some pockets to reignite. The priority for Thursday was to reinforce existing firelines and increase containment, especially on the southwest corner. You can read the full writeup here. Here’s another map of the Rhea fire, as provided by BIA Forestry & Fire Management and OFS:
The 34 Complex fire near Woodward is the second largest of the current fires. This is the fire that had forced 450 people out of their homes and had grown to more than 115,000 acres by Friday. But now, on Thursday April 19, the fire is much smaller. It is 67,778 acres and 45 percent contained. Here is a map below, provided by OFS:
The Laverne Fire in Beaver/Harper county was 100 acres and 80 percent contained as of April 19.
The Hooker Fire in Texas county was 179 acres and 100 percent contained as of April 19.
The following fires were on the list last week and are no longer listed as active as of April 19:
- The Roadside Fire in Woodward County was 1,500 acres and 10 percent contained on Friday, but firefighters gained quite a bit of ground and by the morning of Saturday, April 14, it was 961 acres and 51 percent contained. It is no longer listed as an active fire as of April 19.
- The Shaw Fire in Roger Mills County was at 3,500 acres and 25 percent contained as of earlier Friday, but then it grew to 7,257 acres. By the morning of Saturday, April 14, the fire was still contained to 7,257 acres and 40 percent contained. It is no longer listed as an active fire as of April 19.
- The 66 Fire in Lincoln County was 150 acres and 50 percent contained on Friday, and by Sunday morning it was 75 percent contained. And the Anderson Road fire in Logan County was 60 acres and 50 percent contained on Friday, and by Sunday morning it was 75 percent contained. Neither is listed as an active fire as of April 19.
- The Dollar Pond Fire in Caddo County was 300 acres and 10 percent contained as of Saturday morning, and remained the same size on Sunday morning. It is no longer listed as an active fire as of April 19.
- On Saturday, a new fire popped up called The Martha Fire, requiring the community of Martha to be evacuated. Numerous structures were lost. It is no longer listed as an active fire as of April 19.
Evacuations Were Ordered from the Oklahoma Fires Last Week
On Friday afternoon, residents in Seiling, Taloga, and Putnam in Oklahoma were being told to evacuate immediately due to the wildfire. Evacuations are also in effect for Vici, OFS reported.
Residents of Seiling were told to travel north or east away from the fire. Residents of Taloga and Putnam were told to travel south to avoid the fire. An evacuation center was opened at Elm Grove Community Church in Chester, Oklahoma on Friday afternoon.
By Thursday April 19, OFS said that because evacuation orders can be issued and rescinded quickly based on changing fire behavior, residents should contact their county sheriff’s department for updates. Evacuation shelters are open in the following areas, OKC Fox reported:
- Blaine County: Canton Old Gymnasium, 205 North Jefferson Street, Canton. Cheyenne-Arapaho Tribe managed, Red Cross supported. Information: Annie Walker, 405-626-8661.
- Dewey County: First Baptist Church, 301 North Noble Avenue, Watonga. Independently managed, Red Cross supported. Information: 580-623-5158.
- Dewey County: Vici Chamber Building, 107 East Broadway, Vici. Independently managed.
- Major County: Fairview Community Center, 206 East Broadway, Fairview. Independently managed.
Two People Died from the Oklahoma Fires
Multiple structures were destroyed in last week’s fires. One of the structures destroyed was Trinity Church in Nowata, News on 6 reported. Despite multiple fire departments responding, the church was a total loss. Thankfully, no one was injured. Pastor Connie Wilson said the church had just filled its food bank for an upcoming donation event.
A turkey hunter was injured in the fires. He was trapped overnight in the fires and was badly burned. He was found Friday morning and taken to a burn center.
One of the people who died from the fire was helping battle the flames. Jack Osben, 51, was a county employee who was working as a road grader and helping the firefighters. He died from smoke inhalation, News 9 reported.
How to Stay Updated About the Oklahoma Fires
One of the best sources for staying updated about the fires is the Oklahoma Forestry Services page on Facebook. They are consistently posting updates, evacuation news, and breaking information. You can also follow them on Twitter.
OFS said that because evacuation orders can be issued and rescinded quickly based on changing fire behavior, residents should contact their county sheriff’s department for updates. Here are the numbers:
- Blaine County: 580-623-5111
- Custer County: 580-323-1616
- Dewey County: 580-328-5580
- Woodward County: 580-256-3264
Photos & Videos of the Oklahoma Fires
Here are photos and videos of the fires. The first is from Wednesday, April 18 and shows the 34 Complex fire. OFS reported that it was an aerial video of a flight over the perimeter, with one side showing where the plane was and the other showing the landscape.
Here is a video of firefighting efforts on April 19:
And here’s a video of the Rhea Fire on April 17:
Next is what the fires looked like in Oklahoma on April 13: