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1,000 flee, 1 dead, as Oklahoma wildfire spreads

Firefighters Battle Large Oklahoma Wildfire

By KRISTI EATON
Associated Press

GUTHRIE, Okla. (AP) -- Firefighters facing another hot and windy forecast worked Monday to battle a large wildfire in central Oklahoma that destroyed at least six homes and left one person dead after a controlled burn spread out of control.

The wildfire broke out Sunday afternoon near Guthrie and by 9 p.m. had burned an estimated 4 to 6 square miles of land as well as several homes, Guthrie Fire Department Chief Eric Harlow said. The fire was still burning Monday and threatening about 150 additional homes; Harlow said the blaze was about 75 percent contained.

Temperatures later Monday were expected to hit 100, with winds gusting from the south at 33 mph. Tuesday's winds were expected to be higher still, enhancing the risk of the fire spreading further.

"It's not that big ... but the potential is there," said Capt. Stan May of the Oklahoma Incident Management Team. He said two Black Hawk UH-60 helicopters from the Army National Guard were being sent in to help put water on the fire, with a third on standby.

The Guthrie Fire Department said six homes were destroyed but that the number of damaged or destroyed homes would likely rise. Fire department crews assessed the fire and damage by helicopter.

The fire department said about 1,000 people on Sunday evacuated their homes in the city about 35 miles north of Oklahoma City. Harlow said a 56-year-old man who did not leave was found dead in his home Sunday night.

Tony Ergang, 47, was among those who heeded the evacuation warning. Ergang, who lives in a mobile home, stayed as long as possible Sunday night and watched as the flames drew closer before finally heading to a hotel.

He came back Monday morning to survey the damage and found smoke damage to the inside of his home and burns on the outside. He fared better than a neighbor whose home was destroyed, with two burnt cars, a grill, a burnt wooden chair, two lawn mowers and an above-ground pool the only discernible items left.

"It's one of those things," he said. "It's like a tornado that tears through a house, leaving a napkin folded on the dining room table."

The American Red Cross set up a shelter at a church in Guthrie for those affected by the fire.

Smaller wildfires also popped up around the state Sunday, fueled by the hot, dry conditions. The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management said wildfires were reported in the southwest, northwest and north central parts of the state.

Insurance Commissioner John Doak, who had planned to tour the area Monday, had to wait until the fire was more under control, spokeswoman Kesha Keith said. Gov. Mary Fallin planned to tour the area Monday.

The next rain was forecast for Wednesday, when winds were expected to gust up to 39 mph, the National Weather Service said.

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Bernie May 05 2014 at 4:38 PM

Associated Press is getting like AOL/HuffPost…. sketchy reporting……...
who was doing the controlled burn?….. a government agency or was it a private party thinking he/they had it all under control……Why with temps that high and wind conditions would they be doing a controlled burn to begin with?

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1 reply
maggy Bernie May 05 2014 at 4:47 PM

It was a private party/business...not the government. We here in Oklahoma are all asking the same question. What idiot would do ANY kind of a burn when the winds are 25 mph, the humidity is at 0% and the temps are near 100?

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msslongrider May 06 2014 at 8:48 AM

climate change?Na just keep listening to the politicans and big money!

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2 replies
gbaker9916 msslongrider May 06 2014 at 8:57 AM

Climate change causes controlled burns? Wow!!

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1 reply
mlaurel58 gbaker9916 May 06 2014 at 9:35 AM

Of course it does!!...and also polio, warts, STD's, nightmares, heartburn and who knows what else.

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cypspider msslongrider May 06 2014 at 10:04 AM

No, people do not just start the fires! It's the idiotic fire department that already had three controlled burns this year and all three ended up out-of-control!

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Mike May 06 2014 at 6:46 AM

This is just part of the plot to clear out Oklahoma and hand it over to Mexico.

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PHILL AND TRISHA May 06 2014 at 6:47 AM

“Eleven Republican U.S. senators who represent the states with the most FEMA-declared disasters since the start of 2009 voted against a bill designed to keep the agency’s disaster relief fund from running out of cash, an iWatch News analysis reveals. The top two states, Texas and Oklahoma, combined for more than a quarter of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s declared disasters since Jan. 1, 2009. Still, the four Republicans from those states most frequently aided by FEMA opposed legislation to increase the fund without offsets. One of them, Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, said to do so would be “unconscionable.”

Of course, both Coburn and Inhofe tended to see things very differently in the past when their own state was in need of FEMA help.

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PHILL AND TRISHA May 06 2014 at 6:50 AM

The good news for Oklahoma is that the President is not going to get involved in political “payback” when it comes to Senators Coburn and Inhofe and will see to it, with the support of a majority of Americans, that the federal government will be there for the hard hit people of Moore, Oklahoma—even if the state’s top elected officials were not there for others when they so badly needed their help.

When a member of your family is facing a severe crisis, you don’t go looking to figure out how you are going to pay for helping that family member through their moment of great need without incurring financial hardship—you do what you have to do to stem the crisis and worry about how to pay for it later.
The people of Moore, Oklahoma are a part of our American family and we are going to be there for them because that is what a family does.
Maybe Senators Inhofe and Coburn will learn something about the importance of being there for all Americans!

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PHILL AND TRISHA May 06 2014 at 6:53 AM

While you were busy watching the latest fake scandal drama, House Republicans pulled another rug out from under Americans.

The Republican controlled House Appropriations Committee passed via a party line vote on Tuesday a move to give themselves a budget increase as they cut budgets already reduced via the sequester. These include firefighting efforts, cutting an additional 18% of the funding out of labor, health and education programs including Indian healthcare, which are already facing sequester cuts.
...Oklahoma has a self-inflicted wound!..its called "hypocrite republicans!"

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hanlon1212 May 06 2014 at 9:35 AM

GOD BE WITH THE VICTIMS !

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harleybv May 06 2014 at 9:28 AM

From the state that does nothing but complain about people getting handouts...guess who's hand is out? hypocrites. Let it burn and all the people move to Texas.OK is nothing but a dust bowl without any redeeming qualities..

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2 replies
klassikars harleybv May 06 2014 at 11:17 AM

Obviously you don't travel much.

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sutt202 harleybv May 06 2014 at 8:40 PM

Texas has more idiots than it needs. And you want to send more?

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Joseph Giancola May 06 2014 at 8:15 AM

This is God punishing Oklahoma for denying marriage equality to gay Americans.

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lschck May 06 2014 at 8:19 AM

OKLA. IS FULL OF EVIL, VERY EVIL TEA PARTY REPUBLICANS WHO HAVE TAKEN OVER THE STATE WITH THEIR UNDERHANDED TACTICS. NOW GOD IS TAKING HIS WRATH OUT ON THE EVILS THESE REPUBLICANS HAVE COMMITTED AGAINST HIM AND THE PEOPLE OF OKLA. THIS IS A SIGN FOLKS. GET RID OF THESE PHONEY CHRISTIAN REPUBLICANS BEFORE ITS TO LATE.ASK YOURSELF, WHY IS OKLA BEING SO DEVASTATED LATELY? I THINK YOU KNOW THE ANSWER, BECAUSE YOU HAVE DEMONS AND EVIL POLITICIANS RUIN THIS STATE. I LEFT LONG AGO, BECAUSE IT COMING. PLEASE PEOPLE GET RID OF THEM AND YOU WILL SEE A DIFFERENCE IN OKLA.

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