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Additional crews also assisted rural fire departments near Texhoma and Hardesty Tuesday
By Miranda GilbertEmergency Management Public Information Officer
*Photos by Guymon Fire Chief Dean McFadden of Strike Team Response Near Woodward
Texas County’s Strike Team was activated Tuesday to fight the wildfires north of Woodward, Okla. Strike Teams are part of the Oklahoma Emergency Management response program.
The purpose of a Strike Team is to “provide a formidable contingent of manpower and equipment that, when called upon, will deploy to safely combat and extinguish wildland fires or other emergencies.”
What began as four separate fires merged into one large wildfire, named the 350 Complex, on Tuesday afternoon in Woodward County, according to the Oklahoma Forestry Services’ Incident Management Team which is working in unified command with the Woodward Fire Department to battle the 55,308 acre blaze, utilizing firefighting task forces, heavy equipment and very large air tankers to suppress the fire. High winds have created the perfect recipe for fire danger, resulting in 115- 300 personnel working this fire at times, with more resources being ordered to assist and crews being rotated from various areas in the state.
The Texas County Strike Team released half of its crew to rest after battling the fire all night, while the other half stayed to assist. The second crew is now released as others from the state were called in for relief.
The Oklahoma Forestry Service (OFS) reports that the wildfire was started around 1 p.m. Tuesday by power lines that were whipped around and arced by winds that were sustained at 30 mph and gusted to over 50 mph. The fire was 0% contained as of Wednesday morning. An unknown number of structures were lost, but no injuries or deaths have been reported at this time, but the fire continues. And at least one Fire Fighter was treated for exhaustion.
Texas County is under a burn ban, as is much of the state. Warm temperatures, relative low humidity and high winds contributed to the start of additional fires Wednesday.
“With the fires we are experiencing and Red Flag Warnings in effect for most of the state, we have to remind the public again that doing anything to cause a spark is extremely dangerous today and over the next few days,” said OFS Director George Geissler. “Any fires that start in these conditions will have the potential to spread very quickly and present erratic fire behavior.”
In addition to avoiding outdoor burning or any activity that could cause a spark, the public is urged to remain vigilant and report any fire or smoke to their local fire departments. Citizens are also being asked, for their own safety as well as the firefighters, to avoid traveling near any wildfires. It is imperative to keep the roadways clear for firefighters and other emergency responders.
Other fires being reported today:- Oklahoma Forestry Services has diverted an Okla. Air National Guard Blackhawk from the Olive Fire to a fire in Drumright in Creek County that is threatening Central Technology Center.- OFS Task Force is responding to a request for assistance on a new fire south of Anadarko in Caddo Co. called the Potbelly Fire.
OFS is working in cooperation with local fire departments, County Wildland Task Forces and County and State Emergency Management to suppress the fires and protect lives and property across the state.
OFS is the state’s lead agency related to wildland fire prevention, protection and use. For additional information about wildfires, visit www.forestry.ok.gov/wildfire-information.