Stories from the Oklahoma fire line

The three fires that started Monday March 6 during a wind event in Oklahoma and Kansas were managed as the NW Oklahoma Complex of Fires and burned over 833,941 acres.

The men in these two videos tell a part of the story as they saw it during the first couple of days. The videos were acquired and posted on the Oklahoma Forestry Services Facebook page by the Southern Area Red Team.

First, is Eric Bond of Knowles, Oklahoma.

Below is a transcript of the video above:

I’m Eric Bond. I’m on the Gate Volunteer Fire Department (18 years). We got paged out Monday the 6th, I believe, at noon or eleven. Something like that, and we went to Knowles and got a one ton brush rig and went to the fire as quick as I could and I was hearing on the radio it was already twenty miles ahead of us. We were trying to save some houses down in there. And my wife had called and wanted to know what she could do. I told her to get one of my boys out of school and to move some cows out of the river. We were trying to save some houses down in there. It was going right down the Cimarron River. And we went over there after a couple of tanks of water, and fought it off a neighbor’s house.

And north of us was a wall of fire but it was going east at the time. And I called my son and asked him he got out of there. And he said “yeah he did” but my wife was still down there trying to get two more cows. And about then the wind changed and that thing came down through there, down river, forty feet high. I told the guy with me “I have to go down there but you don’t have to, you ought to get out.” He said “no, I’m in”! So we went and it turned out there were like six people down there trying to get those cows. And the fire kind of over ran us. We kind of struggled a little getting out of there.

We got through my pasture to the neighbor’s other house and everything there was on fire except the house. And I told everybody to stay in the road because you know they won’t burn up in the road if the house catches on fire. And we just kind of kept it off that house. And another truck showed up eventually, and I don’t know he was but we left him there to watch that house and we went to my house.

And in the meantime, I heard my house burned down. And when we got where we could see it, it did look like it had. But when we got up there the house was ok, but everything else around it burned. All my machinery and trailers, and pretty well everything there, four out buildings, skid loaders, and…pretty well everything there. But the house was ok. And I talked to another guy on our department a while ago and there had been a truck up there. He didn’t know who it was before we got there, but it was there at one time before we got there.

We ended up burning nearly every square foot four miles north. We came out better than some. We lost some cows and some calves (34 cows and calves). The horses are singed a little, but they’re ok.

[How long were you out?] Oh, it was three days from the time they paged until I took my clothes off. And I was sure glad seeing everyone else showing up and kind of get a break, and see what’s left. I had another place in Harper County, and it burnt a little, a hay shed was burnt, 60 bales of hay, and a tractor. I’m pretty fortunate it didn’t burn near all that place.

Next is Charlie Starbuck, chief of the Slapout Fire Department. The largest of the three fires is named after him because he reported it.

Information about how to donate to organizations that are helping the victims of the fires. And here.

Update on wildfires in Oklahoma and Kansas

Above: Satellite data from March 8 shows that there was much less heat detected by the satellite (the red dots) on the fires in the tri-state area of Kansas, Oklahoma, and the panhandle of Texas than in previous days.

The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management reported on Wednesday that the NW Oklahoma Complex of Fires had significant growth during the previous 24 hours. The three fires in that complex are:

  • Starbuck (Beaver and Harper County in Oklahoma, plus, in Kansas, Meade, Comanche, Clark Counties) – 715,484 acres total in Oklahoma and Kansas;
  • Selman (Harper and Woodward County, Oklahoma) – 47,289 acres; and,
  • 283 Fire (Harper County, Oklahoma) – 71,168 acres

An Oklahoma Forest Service Type 3 Incident Management Team (IMT) has been assigned to the fires but an order has been placed for a Type 1 IMT, which is the largest and most highly qualified type of IMT.

More moderate weather conditions across the region on Thursday should slow the spread of the wildfires, with wind speeds in many areas that are less than 10 mph. However the relative humidities are in the teens in the western areas of Kansas, Oklahoma, and the northern panhandle of Texas.

Through the FEMA Fire Management Assistance Grant (FMAG) approved for the Northwest Oklahoma Complex of fires, local fire departments and other response agencies may be eligible for reimbursements for costs associated with emergency protective measures and firefighting activities.

The video, uploaded March 9, shows the view from an airliner of one of the fires in the Oklahoma/Kansas border area.

Three fires near OK-KS border burned over 800,000 acres

Three fires near the border between Kansas and Oklahoma are being managed as the NW Oklahoma Complex of Fires, comprised of the Starbuck, 283, and Selman Fires. The Starbuck fire, by far the largest, began east of of Beaver, Oklahoma and ran to the northeast into Oklahoma. The city of Ashland, 40 miles away, had to be evacuated and was later surrounded by the fire.

George Geissler, the Director of Oklahoma Forestry Services, announced on Wednesday that together these three fires have burned over 833,941 acres.

Other fires are burning in Kansas, Colorado, and in the Texas panhandle.

Wildfires continue to spread in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas

map wildfires kansas oklahoma
Burned areas and wildfire smoke can be seen in this 3:45 p.m. infrared satellite image from Tuesday. Click to enlarge.

The wildfires that grew to blacken hundreds of thousands of acres continue to grow larger in Kansas, Texas, and Oklahoma on Tuesday.

In the map below the red dots represent wildfire heat detected by a satellite at 12:57 p.m. CST March 7, 2017. The white line was the very rough, approximate perimeter we developed from heat detected by satellites on Monday. The fires are still growing on Tuesday, spreading toward the southeast, pushed by strong west and northwest winds gusting at 20 to 40 mph. The relative humidity in the western two-thirds of Kansas has fallen Wednesday to the single digits.

The towns of Protection and Coldwater in Kansas are threatened.

The red dots represent wildfire heat detected by a satellite at 12:57 p.m. CST March 7, 2017. Click to enlarge.
weather kansas wildfires
Kansas weather data at 2:41 p.m. CST March 7, 2017. The red numbers are the relative humidity while the wind barbs indicate the wind speed and direction. Click to enlarge.
radar wildfire smoke
At 4:45 p.m. CST on March 7 radar was picking up smoke from the fires southeast of Dodge City, Kansas. Click to enlarge.

Fires in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas burn hundreds of thousands of acres

Above: The red and yellow dots represent heat detected by a satellite in the 24 hours before 11:30 a.m. CST March 7, 2017.

Published at 11:29 a.m. MST March 7, 2017

On Monday a cold front brought very strong winds to the plains of Kansas and the northern portions of Texas and Oklahoma. Gusting in some areas at over 50 mph and accompanied by low relative humidities, any wildfires that were ignited spread very rapidly, and often exceeded the capabilities of firefighters.

The largest fire started east of Beaver, Oklahoma and ran to the northeast into Oklahoma. Ashland, 40 miles away, had to be evacuated. It is not 100 percent clear if the fire in Ashland was the same fire that started in Oklahoma, but it likely was.

After the cold front passed, the southwest wind shifted 90 degrees to come out of the northwest, which converted the right flank of the fire into the head as it turned and ran to the southeast.

The fire burned in the following counties: in Oklahoma, Beaver and Harper; in Kansas, Meade, Comanche, Clark, and possibly Ford. As of 3:16 a.m. CST satellite data, the fire was still very active in some areas.

The map below shows heat detected by a satellite in the 24 hours before 11:30 a.m. CST March 7, 2017. We drew a red-tinted polygon around the heat icons for the fire east of Beaver. The satellite only collects data twice a day at roughly 12-hour intervals. As the fire spreads rapidly through mostly grass with the strong wind, it can cool and not be detected by the next satellite overflight. We don’t know if everything within our red polygon was all one fire, and even if it is there likely are many areas, some large, that did not burn. So with all those disclaimers, the red polygon includes about 600,000 acres.

wildfire kansas oklahoma
A fire that started in Oklahoma on Monday spread into Kansas burning hundreds of thousands of acres.

The red polygon we drew around the wildfire east of Laverne, OK encompases about 30,000 acres, but the same disclaimers about the fire east of Beaver also apply here.

Red Flag Warnings for strong winds and low humidities have been issued again Tuesday for Kansas and Oklahoma as well as portions of Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri. The wind is predicted to decrease significantly on Wednesday.