Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Wildfires burn in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas

I have had some interest in following the spring wildfire season in Oklahoma because of some acquaintances I have made there. The last several days, I have made a habit of going to the Oklahoma Forestry Services webpage to download the daily Oklahoma Wildfire Situation Report. Knowing that yesterday was a day when all or most of Oklahoma and portions of adjoining states were under Red Flag Warnings, I suspected the worst and hoped for the best. Red Flag Warnings continued today in portions of Northwest Oklahoma and adjoining areas of Kansas.

I learned of four large fires that were reported in this morning's Oklahoma Wildfire Situation Report (March 7th). All are in northwest Oklahoma:

  • Starbuck Fire (Beaver County), an estimated 185,000 acres have burned near Knowles and Gate. Numerous structures including residences were lost. No containment.
  • Selman (Harper County, near Selman)), no estimate of size, and no estimate of structures lost. No containment.
  • 283 fire (Woodward County): Near Woodward. No estimate of size, and no estimate of structures lost. Numerous communities remain threatened. No containment.
  • Territory (Stephens County, north of Empire). 1,200 acres burned near the Territory Gulf Course. No report on containment information.
Here is a statewide summary from the March 7th Oklahoma Wildfire Situation Report:
Widespread fire occurrence was experienced near and west of Interstate 35. Estimates on acreage burned are sketchy due to smoke obscuring the majority of NW Oklahoma. Flight operations (aerial suppression and mapping) will resume as conditions allow. Current estimates show between 200,000 and 300,000 acres burned in Beaver, Harper, and Woodward counties. Multiple federal, state, and local resources will remain committed to the incidents for the next several days. 
While I am focusing here on Northwest Oklahoma, wildfires are or have occurred in other areas of Oklahoma, Kansas, and Texas. Bill Gabbert of Wildfire Today has two reports on these fires, one is on the outbreak in Kansas, Texas, and Oklahoma and the other is about a tornado in Kansas that forced wildland firefighters to evacuate.

I did a quick web search earlier this afternoon to see what other information I could find about this wildfire outbreak. I spent an incredible two hours watching a video on Facebook reported by Storm Tracker Marty Logan of News 9 in Oklahoma late in the afternoon of March 6th. He was in northwest Oklahoma near the Harper/Woodward County line late yesterday afternoon (5 PM  to about 7 PM local time) reporting on the wildfire. Incredible and scary footage. A cold front approached about an hour into the video (that was streamed live on Facebook). When the cold front and the associated change in the direction the winds were coming from he noted that winds were at 30 mph, gusting to 51 mph. After the winds changed, visibility dropped to about 200 yards or less because of the heavy smoke from the approaching wildfire. Very moving footage of the efforts of firefighters to try to save two homes. I wonder if they were successful? Or were these two homes among the residences lost. I am still processing what I saw, and am struck by the power these wildfires and the dedication of all the firefighters in Oklahoma and environs fighting large wildfires where resources were stretched thin. Logan moved at least four times in the video to get out of harms way as the wildfire moved towards him. At various points during the video, Logan (who is or was a 25-year firefighter) panned around the area where his truck was stopped showing with the smoke from the other wildfires burning in Oklahoma and Texas.

Direct link to AP Video

Here are a couple of reports from News 9 OK that you may want to read for more information.

Wildfires Burn NW OK into Kansas (with video) updated March 6th at 11:39 PM
Two civilian deaths in OK from wildfires (March 7th at 2:38 PM)

Finally, here is a video report from the News 9 OK Facebook page that was posted about 3 PM, March 7th local time. You will here an update from an official from Oklahoma Forestry Services report on the wildfires in Oklahoma.

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