Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management
Situation Update 1
March 6, 2009 – 12:30 p.m.
STATE EOC ACTIVATED AS WILDFIRES CONTINUE
Due to the wildfires, the State Emergency Operations Center (EOC) is activated. The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management (OEM) is in contact with emergency managers in the affected areas.
Since Thursday, numerous fires have been reported, especially in the northwest and central regions of the state. In Dewey County the flames forced residents to evacuate Taloga and Putnam. Residents have now been allowed to return to their homes.
A storm system moved through the northern U.S. on Thursday, resulting in a dry line moving eastward across Oklahoma. This dry line was positioned near I-35 by late afternoon with hot and dry conditions to the west. Winds were out of the southwest at 25 to 30 mph gusting to 40 mph. These conditions combined with seasonably dormant vegetation to create explosive fire conditions. Today conditions will improve somewhat as a cold front moves into northern Oklahoma. A fire weather watch is posted for Saturday across the northwest part of the state. Warm and dry air will once again combine with strong winds to produce a critical fire weather threat. Additionally, severe thunderstorms are possible across central and north central Oklahoma Saturday afternoon and evening.
One firefighter was injured while working the fire Thursday night. The firefighter was treated for smoke inhalation and released.
The Oklahoma Southern Baptist Disaster Relief and American Red Cross are providing food and drinks to first responders in Taloga and Oakwood.
In addition to OEM, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH), Oklahoma Highway Patrol (OHP), Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT), Oklahoma Military Department (OMD), State Fire Marshal and the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture Food and Forestry – Forestry Services (ODAFF-Forestry Services) are assisting with the wildfire response.
State forestry officials report the fire continues to burn near Putnam in Dewey County. Additionally, around noon fires were reported in Oklahoma County, including one in the Edmond area.
In Dewey County, an Oklahoma Army National Guard Blackhawk helicopter equipped with a 660-gallon bucket is assisting with aerial fire suppression. An ODAFF-Forestry Services firefighter aboard an OHP airplane is providing tactical assistance to ground resources.
Additionally, numerous local fire departments, emergency managers and other response agencies, some from as far away as Washington County, are reporting to provide mutual aid. Local firefighters have been battling the blaze since Wednesday morning.
Thursday night 60-foot flame lengths were reported at the head of the fire. More than 25 fire departments responded to the incident. ODAFF-Forestry Services responded by dispatching a Heavy Air tanker, Lead Plane, and Air Tactical Group Supervisor. These resources are currently on assignment to the State of Texas and were temporarily loaned to ODAFF-Forestry Services to assist in this critical situation.
OSDH has a strike team deployed to Dewey County. They are monitoring shelter operations, sanitarian conditions and providing health and medical needs to first responders. Working with the local shelters and hospitals, they are handling medical requests of the Incident Commander.
OHP has its Command One unit on scene to provide communications support for the fire response.
About a dozen ODOT personnel, including crews from Dewey and Blaine counties, were on the scene on Thursday between Taloga and Putnam. All highways in that area are now open, but smoke from yesterday's fire caused US-183 between Taloga and Putnam to be closed to traffic from 1:45 p.m. Thursday until 2:35 a.m. Friday. ODOT crews, some of whom were on the scene until about 2 a.m. Friday, assisted in directing traffic around the smoky area. Oklahomans are reminded to always avoid driving into smoke.
OEM has deployed personnel to Dewey County to assist with fire response.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has approved the state’s request for federal assistance related to battling the wildfire near Taloga in Dewey County. Gov. Brad Henry requested the fire management grant to help cover expenses related to the fire. Under the grant, funds are available to local governments and volunteer fire departments that responded to these blazes. OEM is monitoring the situation to determine if the state qualifies for further assistance.
BURN BANS CONTINUE
County commissioner-ordered burn bans are in place in at least 55 of the state’s 77 counties. For a complete listing click on the link below to the official Burn Ban Web page: http://www.forestry.ok.gov/burn-ban-information
ARSON TIP LINE
The public is urged to report any suspicious wild land fire activity via the Arson Tip Line: 1-866-662-7766 (1-866-NO ARSON).
Woodward/Woodward County Emergency Management reports the fire burned up to the intersection of Highway 51 and Highway 270, which is about 6 miles southeast of Seiling. It extended another 17 miles southwest of there. The fire width exceeded four miles in some locations. At least one mobile home was destroyed by the flames and numerous ranchers are reporting significant livestock losses. The fire has damaged telephone lines, cell towers and other communications infrastructure.
Also assisting at the State EOC are OK-FIRST and emergency managers from McClain County, Beaver County and the Cheyenne-Arapaho tribe.