Wildfire growth slows in northwest Oklahoma as wind falters

AP News
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Posted: Apr 08, 2016 5:34 PM

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A wildfire that has burned about 90 square miles in northwest Oklahoma has stalled in growth after winds died down and nearby states pitched in with help fighting the blaze, officials said Friday.

The fire was 20 percent contained Friday and has been about the same size since Wednesday, Oklahoma Forestry Services spokeswoman Hannah Anderson said. Local fire departments received assistance Thursday from the Oklahoma National Guard, Oklahoma Forestry Services, county task forces and firefighting resources from Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Georgia and Tennessee.

"With the lighter wind and additional resources, the fire really stayed in the same footprint as it has been from the last couple of days," Anderson said.

Wind speeds dropped Thursday after gusting at up to 50 mph earlier in the week. Anderson says officials anticipate the friendlier conditions to continue through Sunday, when she said they could worsen again.

Despite the improvement in conditions, the fire remained active enough to delay an official assessment of the structural damage it caused. At least a dozen structures were destroyed, Anderson said, but officials on Friday morning had assessed only about a third of the burn area for damage.

Woodward County Emergency Management reported Northwestern Electric Cooperative sustained more than $300,000 in damage affecting 125 power poles. Officials assessed about $900,000 in damage to farm and ranch fencing.

Officials believe the fire began after high winds blew swinging power lines into tree limbs and brush. The fire on Tuesday spread within 2 miles of the town of Freedom, prompting officials to issue a voluntary evacuation order for the town's roughly 300 residents before the flames stalled on the opposite side of the Cimarron River.

The lower wind speeds and cloud cover on Friday allowed firefighters to make progress setting up containment lines, and Woodward County Emergency Management Director Matt Lehenbauer said he expected officials to announce a higher containment figure Friday evening.