Dewey County Sheriff: 50 homes have burned in Rhea wildfire
Apr 21 2018
Forecasters warned of unsafe, life-threatening wildfire conditions in parts of the Southwest and Southern Plains on Tuesday, as a forestry official warned firefighters battling a terrifying deadly blaze in Oklahoma that it would be a "historically critical day". In Woodward County, the 34 Complex Fire has burned almost 68,000 acres and is 45 percent contained.
Crews have made progress on a fire in Woodward County, but are having a harder time containing the Rhea Fire in Dewey County, which has torched at least 50 homes and almost 250,000 acres.
But, the job is not over once the fire is contained. The so-called Roadside Fire in Woodward County is responsible for the destruction of 916 acres and is considered 100 percent contained at this time.
A Red Flag fire warning remains in affect for western Oklahoma, west of Garfield County, and northern Texas, with low humidity levels, warm temperatures and gusty winds combining for a unsafe potential for spreading fires, according to the National Weather Service.
OFS reported more than 500 firefighters are working the Rhea Fire in Dewey County alone.
Numerous families in both counties were burned out of their homes. The threat was expected to be critical on Monday and increase on Tuesday.
Firefighting forces from Georgia have arrived and now, the Oklahoma National Guard is hauling water to keep brush units supplied without having to wait critical minutes or have to travel to reload.
There is a Fire Weather Watch for the Tulsa area today because of strong northwest winds and a low humidity. Sustained southwest winds up to 30 miles per hour and gusts 40-50 miles per hour have been forecast.
"If you looked at that fire weather forecast.it should scare the hell out of you", Deb Beard said during a briefing Tuesday posted on the Oklahoma Forestry Service's Facebook page.
The forecast includes northwestern Texas and the Texas Panhandle where firefighting aircraft are stationed in Amarillo, Abilene and surrounding areas.
The fire started near Interstate 25 so Elder suspects it was sparked by something like a tossed cigarette or a spark from a chain hanging from a passing truck. Ongoing fires will require extensive patrol and mop up to prevent escape.
Wild fires continue to burn across western Oklahoma.
"The moral of the story is, things haven't drastically improved or changed", Berry said.
But most of southern Oklahoma isn't able to donate because the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture has issued a hay quarantine due to fire ant infestations.
Around 3:40 p.m. Tuesday, the Rhea Fire Incident Command requested a fire warning from NWS for the Seiling area. "The winds that we may have tomorrow may make this really stand up and run again".