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The Shawnee News-Star
  • 500-plus acres burn during weekend fires in Shawnee

  • As wildfires flared all over the state Saturday, a swift-moving grass fire that started in the area of Interstate 40 and U.S. 177 in Shawnee grew and burned more than 500 acres and destroyed two structures while another grass fire

    thereatened a horse barn at St. Gregory's University.


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  • As wildfires flared all over the state Saturday, a swift-moving grass fire that started in the area of Interstate 40 and U.S. 177 in Shawnee grew and burned more than 500 acres and destroyed two structures while another grass fire
    thereatened a horse barn at St. Gregory's University.
    Shawnee Fire Capt. Tony Wittman said crews on 12 grass rigs, four
    tankers and one engine battled the largest grass fire that was reported
    about 12:30 p.m. on the north side of westbound I-40 and mile marker
    182.
    Crews had about a four-minute response time, Wittman said, but the fire
    spread fast.
    "It grew quick - our trucks couldn't keep up with it," he said, adding
    the flames moved extremely fast across fields of trees and brush.
    Two structures, including some type of outbuilding and a barn, were
    destroyed, he said, as nearly 10 homes in the area were threatened by
    that blaze.
    Firefighters from Shawnee, Bethel Acres, Tecumseh, McLoud, Earlsboro
    and Meeker joined forces and converged on the area to divert flames
    around those homes, Wittman said. Wittman said crews did a great job and  were able to save the homes, although some did sustain
    slight heat damage.
    As intense smoke from the fire filled the area, several livestock in
    the path of the fire had to be set free during that blaze, Wittman said, and there were reports of tractors lost to the fire.
    It took crews several hours to get that fire under control, he said,
    and fire crews were still out hitting hot spots by late evening in that
    area.
    Wittman conservatively estimated that about 500 acres burned, but said
    since parts of two land sections were involved, it could have been
    closer to 600 acres.
    The fire occurred in sections from I-40 to Westech road between Acme
    and Coker roads and also from Coker
    to U.S. 177, he said, with crews stopping the fire before it went past
    Westech Road.
    In addition to Shawnee crews on duty, Wittman said 12 off-duty Shawnee
    firefighters returned to work Saturday to assist with coverage.
    As crews battled that blaze, portions of both Westech and Coker Roads
    were shut down to traffic, Wittman said.
    Cause of what sparked that blaze was unknown, Wittman said.
    Wittman praised the American Red Cross volunteers on scene who
    provided water and essentials to fire crews. But it was the area
    residents that firefighters also appreciated, Wittman said, as many
    of those homeowners brought water and icy wet towels from their homes
    Page 2 of 3 - to fire crews to help them cool off while battling the fire.
    "They probably don't know how much we appreciate that," Wittman said.
    That type of community help also occurred Saturday afternoon when
    another grass fire flared near St. Gregory's
    University.
    Shawnee Fire Chief David Short said that  grass fire occurred on the
    southwest side of the campus and burned mostly cedar trees and grass in
    about 5 acres, although that wildfire did threaten a barn where horses from a
    therapy program are housed. Luckily no damage was reported.
    "The guys made a great stop on the fire," the chief said.
    The wildfire came within about 15 feet of that structure. Short said
    fire crews have no idea was sparked that blaze.
    McLoud and Bethel Acres firefighters assisted Shawnee crews in getting
    that blaze quickly under control.
    The American Red Cross also was on the scene providing water for fire
    crews, but Short said others from the community also were there to help and
    offer firefighters water and anything else they might need.
    "There were so many gracious people that helped," the chief said.
    With devastating fires all around central Oklahoma, from Cleveland
    County to Luther, Short said crews are helping each other as they can.
    When Earlsboro had a large fire a week ago, Cleveland County sent a
    task force to help.
    Friday night, as areas near Norman battled blazes that consumed homes,
    Short said he sent a crew of Shawnee firefighters to that area to help.
    While fires continued to burn all over the state Saturday, Oklahoma
    emergency management officials reported that more than 52,000 acres had
    burned in the state since Friday. Most of them were reported in Creek
    County, but thousands of acres burned in the Luther and Cleveland
    County fires.
    In Lincoln County Saturday, some evacuations were ordered in areas
    north of Stroud, where a wildfire jumped SH 99 near County Road 740. As
    of mid-evening, there appeared to be no reports of any structures
    burned in that fire, although an evacuation center was set up in
    Cushing.
    With dry conditions, the entire state remains under a Governor's burn
    ban. Gov. Mary Fallin is  encouraging all Oklahomans to be cautious
    of the severe conditions.
    The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management also reminds everyone
    that wildfires can easily be sparked and are encouraging to be careful
    when pulling off a road as hot catalytic converters can ignite vegetation.
    Page 3 of 3 - And for those who smoke in their vehicles, officials ask everyone to
    extinguish cigarettes in vehicle ashtrays and to never toss a cigarette
    out of a car window or put one out on the ground.
     

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