Wildfires Kill Texas Couple, Hurt Dozens in Okla.

 

 
 
 

Murray Evans | | Friday, April 10, 2009


MIDWEST CITY, Okla. -- Firefighters mopped up hot spots Friday from wind-driven wildfires that injured at least 34 people in western and central Oklahoma and destroyed more than 100 homes.

Fires across the state line in Texas killed at least two people.

The fires began Thursday afternoon along the Interstate 35, the main north-south highway through central Oklahoma. They continued to burn past nightfall, fueled by ferocious winds and an abundance of dry, early spring grass and brush.

"We have in excess of 100 homes that have been destroyed statewide," Emergency Management Director Albert Ashwood said Friday morning.

Interstate 35 was back open Friday after being closed for several hours in various locations because of the fires.

Water-dropping helicopters couldn't assist the ground effort because of winds that gusted to more than 60 mph in some areas on Thursday.

"Anytime you have high winds and low humidity it's just the perfect storm for wildfires, and that's what's happening here," Ashwood said.

In northern Texas, firefighters continued battling blazes that raced across thousands of parched acres Thursday, destroying homes and forcing the temporary evacuations of some small towns.

Family members of former WFAA-TV reporter Matt Quinn and his wife, Cathy, told the station the couple was killed and their son was injured when a fire overtook their home about five miles from Montague, which is about 80 miles northwest of Dallas. The son was treated for burns at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas and was in fair condition, the station reported.

The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management said a firefighter helping battle a blaze in Lincoln County, northeast of Oklahoma City, was hospitalized with burns and someone was severely injured after losing control of a vehicle on a smoke-covered road in Stephens County in southern Oklahoma. The other injuries ranged from minor to moderate, officials said.

In the hard-hit Oklahoma City metropolitan area, firefighters and other officials tried to regroup early Friday and closely monitored the blaze.

At the Midwest City Community Center, where about 75 residents flocked to after flames threatened their homes, Kanisha Busby waited for her parents to arrive. Their home, where she grew up, was destroyed but nobody was hurt.

"It's hard, but all that stuff is material things that can be replaced; lives can't be replaced," Busby said. Residents were given sufficient warning to evacuate and her father also managed to save his dog, she said.

Roland and Tricia Smith wondered if their home survived. She said the fire engulfed parts of their neighborhood.

"We thought we were safe but in 30 minutes the fire went everywhere," she said. "I consider myself lucky we're safe."

Weather conditions improved after nightfall, but winds weren't expected to diminish substantially until Friday afternoon.

"As far as winds are concerned, we're quite a bit weaker than on Thursday," said Scott Curl, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. "We're seeing behind the cold front that's working through southeast part of the state that winds are out of the northwest at 15 to 25 mph.

Associated Press writers Angela K. Brown in Fort Worth, Texas, and Betsy Blaney in Lubbock, Texas, contributed to this report.




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