The two fires have burned more than 316,000 acres and 63 homes
Above: Map of the Rhea Fire, April 16, 2017. Incident Management Team.
Two wildfires that are 20 miles apart in Western Oklahoma have burned more than 316,000 acres and 63 residences.
The spread of the 34 Complex of Fires north of Woodward has slowed, but the strength of the firelines could be tested Tuesday with fire weather conditions called “historic”. The forecast includes winds out of the southwest at 35 to 45 mph with gusts up to 65 along with humidities as low as 7 percent.
The same conditions will affect the huge Rhea Fire 20 miles south of the 34 Complex. Some areas of the 248,589-acre fire are quiet, but it was still spreading Monday east of Putnam (shown in red on the map above). Those active areas could be challenging for firefighters with the extreme weather predicted for the area Tuesday and Tuesday night.
Above: Map of the Rhea Fire in Western Oklahoma, current at 2 p.m. CDT April 15, 2018
The Rhea Fire in Western Oklahoma has long since exceeded the 100,000-acre threshold to qualify as a “mega fire”. The most recent size estimate puts it at 241,280 acres. More than 500 firefighters are assigned along with three large air tankers, two type 1 helicopters, four single engine air tankers, two CL-415 scooping air tankers, an air attack plane, and two National Guard helicopters.
Dewey County Sheriff Clay Sanders reported Saturday that a female died in her vehicle at a residence near Seiling. He did not release her name, pending family notifications.
On Saturday strong winds out of the northwest pushed the fire through drainages toward Thomas and Fay in Dewey county.
Firefighters will not get a break from the weather anytime soon. The forecast calls for escalating fire danger through Tuesday with the potential for temperatures back up into the 90°’s and relative humidity values below 15 percent in western Oklahoma and below 25 percent along the I-35 corridor. Sustained southwest winds up to 30 mph and gusts of 40-45 mph will again present a very concerning fire behavior scenario with extreme rates of fire spread anticipated.
The man was helping firefighters by operating a motor grader.
Above: Satellite photo showing smoke from some of the fires in western Oklahoma. The red dots indicate heat.
A man working on a wildfire in Oklahoma was killed April 12. The Oklahoma Office of the Chief Medical Examiner reports the 61-year-old died Thursday in Roger MIlls County as a result of injuries sustained in the fire that began southeast of Leedey. It happened on the Rhea Fire that is threatening Putnam and several other communities. Television station KOCO reported the man was helping firefighters by operating a motor grader.
Our sincere condolences go out to his family, friends, and coworkers.
By our very unofficial estimates the Reah Fire has burned at least 130,000 acres between Leedy and Putnam. Other towns threatened by this fire are Vici, Taloga, and Camargo where evacuations have been ordered.
Woodward County Emergency Management reports the 34 Complex Fire that started Thursday is still burning. Numerous fire departments and task forces are responding. Oklahoma Forestry Services is supporting the fire with both air and ground assets. This fire is now about 59,000 acres.
The Shaw Fire that started Thursday in Roger Mills County south of Durham is being monitored and is now being mopped up. This fire is approximately 7,250 acres.
The Emergency Price Stabilization Act is in effect for the 52 counties listed in the governor’s executive order, declaring a state of emergency due to wildfires.
The fire occurred Wednesday afternoon south of Geary Oklahoma
A mobile home and two storage buildings were destroyed south of Geary, Oklahoma Wednesday afternoon in a wildfire. According to Brian Snow, Canadian County Emergency Management interim director, a backfire from a vehicle on residential property started the fire. Four acres burned in the fire which was near the Cherokee Trading Post near Interstate 40.
Firefighters have been very busy in Oklahoma in the last few days. A fire near Kaw Lake has burned approximately 600 acres since Wednesday.
Jerry Messinger sent us this photo he took of the Kemohah Fire that started in a structure near Hominy, OK. Firefighters knocked it down after it burned 166 acres. Other structures, he said, were saved. Firefighters were challenged by strong winds and 80-degree temperatures.