Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Wildfires in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas (March 8th)

I wrote about the wildfires currently burning in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas yesterday, writing about two hours of footage by News 9's (Oklahoma) Storm Tracker as he reported late in the afternoon of March 6th from southern Harper County and northern Woodward County in northwest Oklahoma. Here is some incredible footage from the Washington Post, summing up in one minute the destruction and power of wildfires along with the dedication of the wildland firefighters.  Footage from Florida, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.

As of late last night (March 7th) over 833,000 acreage has burned in three fires in northwest Oklahoma and adjoining areas of Kansas. From the March 8, 2017 Oklahoma Forestry Services Fire Situation Report (also see Bill Gabbert's March 8th articles on the northwest Oklahoma wildfires where he talks about the acreage burns with a map he obtained from the Oklahoma Forestry Services.

Northwest Oklahoma Complex – Oklahoma Forestry Services Type 3 IMT is in Unified Command with Woodward, Buffalo, Laverne, Slapout and Mooreland. A Type 1 Incident Management Team has been ordered. Significant growth occurred on all fires in the complex. Numerous OFS overhead, heavy equipment, Type 6 Engines, and aircraft are assigned to the complex to assist local fire departments with the control efforts. An Area Coordination Center and Staging Area has been established at the Woodward County Fairgrounds to facilitate resource assignments and ordering. All fires in the complex were aerially mapped yesterday evening.

Starbuck (Beaver and Harper County) - 715,484 acres total in Oklahoma and Kansas, 0% containment. Near the Oklahoma communities of Buffalo, Knowles, Gate, Rosston, and Laverne. Numerous residences, secondary structures, livestock and other infrastructure lost, 0 % containment. Numerous communities remain threatened. Fire growth continued yesterday and through the nighttime hours. 

Selman (Harper and Woodward County) – 47,289 acres, 0% containment located approximately 10 miles north of Woodward. No estimate on residences or secondary structures lost. Damage assessments are on-going.. Numerous residences remain threatened. Fire growth continued yesterday and through the nighttime hours. 

283 Fire (Harper County) – 71,168 acres, 0% containment Near the communities of Rosston, Laverne, and estimate on residences or secondary structures lost, damage assessments are on-going. 0 % containment. Numerous communities remain threatened. Fire growth continued yesterday and through the nighttime hours.

The acreage burned is incredible. A friend in Oklahoma referred to these wildfires as "horrible," his words are echoing in my brain as I write this. At least six people in Oklahoma and Texas have died in these wildfires.  (see this report from News 9 Oklahoma). Cattle have died, hayfields have been lost, an unknown number of structures and residences have been lost. As with many wildfires, many have lost everything. I have read about cases where the wildfires spared a home. I wonder about the homes I saw in the March 6th footage close to the path of the wildfire in southern Harper and northern Woodward Counties. Where they saved. What about the cattle I saw in the same and other footage?

I have been watching some live stream from News 9 Oklahoma as I write this. Yes, a little hard to do when I am writing at the same time and trying to find various articles. When I first tuned into the stream, I saw a grader working on a fire line followed by a view of a small structure burning. As the camera zooms out I see various fire vehicles. Right now the news helo is over a smokey area, he just zoomed in a tree that is surrounded by fire. A few minutes ago I saw some very impressive flames.

I am still processing what I have seen in these streams and other videos of wildfire footage.

There are a lot of wildland fire crews on the ground, joined by crews in the air working these wildfires. Evacuation centers have been set up. The National Weather Service Weather Forecast Offices in the regions affected by these wildfires (Norman and Tulsa Oklahoma, Amarillo Texas, Dodge City Kansas and I am probably leaving some out) are working hard to get fire weather forecasts out there, doing what they do to try to take care of their people.

For the firefighters, stay safe and thanks for all you are doing. My condolences to the family, friends and loved ones of those who have died.

A few sources of information:

photo gallery from NewsOK
KFOR on threats to livestock
Summary of wildfires (March 7th) from News12 WBNG
Aerial photos of wildfires near Hutchinson Kansas
New York Times (March 8th) in the Plains
Wildfire Today on Texas wildfires
Wildfire Today on Colorado wildfires
Wildfire Today - five fatalities from wildfires (written March 7th)

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