Monday, December 11, 2017

Many wildfire evacuation orders lifted in Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY — Many Oklahomans forced to leave their homes because of raging wildfires were being allowed to return Sunday, despite some fires continuing to burn and emergency shelters remaining open in four communities.

A "monster" fire had devoured almost 91 square miles and continued to burn between Mannford and Kellyville in northeastern Oklahoma's Creek County as light rain and cooler temperatures gave firefighters a brief respite early Sunday, said Oklahoma Forestry Services spokeswoman Michelle Finch-Walker.

She described the blaze as hopscotching as it burns some areas and leaves others untouched.

"It's not like an inferno moving across the landscape," Finch-Walker said. "You can drive for miles down the highway and see nothing but black, but then you can see pockets of green, pockets unburned."

Finch-Walker said residents of the town of Mannford, which was evacuated Saturday, had been allowed to return.

Gov. Mary Fallin traveled to Mannford and nearby Drumright on Sunday, where she met with residents and local officials, telling reporters afterward that the state is doing all it can to assist in putting out the flames. "This has really stretched the resources of the state of Oklahoma," she said. "It's just been a huge fight."

Nigel Holderby, a spokeswoman for the American Red Cross, said four shelters remained open Sunday. An information center in the high school auditorium in Luther also remained in operation, Holderby said. The center, established by the Red Cross, Salvation Army and other agencies, is providing residents with information on how to find government assistance, such as replacing birth certificates and Social Security cards.

The fire near Luther, about 25 miles northeast of Oklahoma City, destroyed nearly five dozen homes and other buildings before firefighters were able to gain some measure of control Saturday.

Finch-Walker said three firefighters were treated and released Friday after suffering burns, but that there had been no reports of serious injuries as a result of wildfires statewide.

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