Rhea Fire in Oklahoma grows to 241,000 acres

A civilian fatality was reported Saturday

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.

Firefighting resources from across the country are arriving to assist the local agencies and departments, not only in Oklahoma, but also in New Mexico and Arizona where wildfire activity is increasing.

Fatality on wildfire in Oklahoma

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, 2018. The Oklahoma Office of the Chief Medical Examiner reports the 61-year-old died Thursday in the western part of the state as a result of injuries sustained while working on the Shaw Fire. 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.

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.

By our very unofficial estimates the Reah Fire, another fire in Oklahoma, 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.

satellite wildfires Oklahoma
The red and orange dots represent heat on fires in Oklahoma detected by a satellite. The red dots were seen at about 2 p.m. CDT April 13, 2018.

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.

A video from Oklahoma:

The early reports on this fatality said that it happened on the Rhea Fire. This article was updated to reflect that it occurred on the Shaw Fire.

Backfiring vehicle starts wildfire, three structures burn

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.

Strong winds recorded in CO, NE, KS, and OK

Above: Map showing maximum wind gusts in Nebraska at 1:25 p.m. MST March 5, 2018.

(Originally published at 1:32 p.m. MST March 5, 2018)

As predicted in the Red Flag Warnings Monday morning, strong winds are are occurring in Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, and Oklahoma.

These maps of the four states show maximum wind gusts updated at 1:25 p.m. MST March 5, 2018.

Kansas

Kansas strong wind
Matt told us about a fire in Clark County, Kansas. The GOES 16 satellite detected it.

fire clark county kansas
The map below shows a fire detected by a satellite in Clark County Kansas at 1:15 p.m. CST March 5. It is south of Dodge City and west of Ashland.

UPDATE at 1:54 p.m. MST March 5, 2018: the satellite is detecting another fire in Kansas, farther west, near Hugoton.

UPDATE at 3:19 p.m. MST March 5, 2018. The fire in Clark County is reportedly contained. That fire and the one farther west are no longer being detected by the satellite.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma wind

Colorado

Colorado strong wind

New documentary chronicles March wildfires across Midwest ranchland

A new documentary published online last week chronicles the terror and heartbreak ranchers faced in areas of Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and Kansas when wind-swept fires tore through their communities in March.

Titled “Fire in the Heartland,” the 16-minute film includes interviews with fire personnel and ranchers about the firestorm that ripped through the prairie lands. The video is the latest enterprise work to come out of the disaster — this New York Times piece also detailed some of the tragedy.

And here’s an excerpt about the fire from Climate.gov.

The wildfires tore through cattle country, feasting on grasses made dry by long-term drought and exacerbated by recent warm weather.  Once the fires were started, strong winds whipped the flames, helping them spread more rapidly. According to Reuters, a wildfire in Texas during the beginning of March moved at speeds up to 70mph as it raced across the Texas Panhandle. By the third week of March, the fires had killed at least seven people—not to mention thousands of livestock—and burned more than 2 million acres.