Oklahoma City fire sends horses, people fleeing

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 30, 2011 10:08 PM
Oklahoma City fire sends horses, people fleeing

By Steve Olafson

OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) - A wildfire in a wooded area of Oklahoma City forced hundreds of homes to be evacuated on Tuesday, destroying two and causing panicked horse owners to let their livestock loose, residents and a fire official said.

The fire affected a sparsely populated 3-square-mile portion of the northeast part of the city that features large swathes of cedar trees that exploded into flame as wind-whipped fires reached them.

"They've got a lot of oil within the tree itself," Oklahoma City Fire Chief Keith Bryant said. "They burn extremely hot and they burn very, very fast. A lot of times when it hits those, that's what really advances the fire."

The stricken area is dotted with properties in which residents keep horses that were turned loose as the fire advanced.

Dee Corley, a stable owner in a nearby area, took in horses that had been evacuated and had an employee pick up wandering strays to prevent traffic accidents.

Before night fell, she had taken in 25 horses as well as 11 dogs and two cats. She refused to accept payment but was considering taking hay donations.

"I'm just glad I can help. That's what it's all about," she said.

About 200 firefighters kept the wildfire from spreading north to more populated areas while two National Guard helicopters dumped water on the blaze. Neighboring cities and counties sent firefighting reinforcements.

Southerly winds gusting up to 25 miles per hour along with low humidity and drought conditions made the wildfire difficult to contain, but officials expected winds to subside at dusk.

"We're going to be mopping up hotspots for some time," the fire chief said.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston)