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Thousands of acres scorched by Oklahoma wildfires amid dry, windy conditions

Oklahoma's fire danger is expected to be persistent through the weekend into early next week.
Oklahoma Forestry Services
Oklahoma's fire danger is expected to be persistent through the weekend into early next week.

Thousands of acres are scorched because of fires in Oklahoma but a cold front is expected to provide some relief before warmer weekend temperatures.

Dozens of fires raged over more than 30,000 acres across the state in 17 counties.

In Western Oklahoma, one first responder was injured. People were evacuated from their homes, patients at Newman Memorial Hospital and residents at Shattuck Nursing Center in Ellis County were also temporarily moved by emergency management officials. Evacuation shelters are now open at the following locations:

  • Fort Supply Baptist Church, 219 Sheridan, Fort Supply, OK
  • Roger Mills County Courthouse, 500 E Broadway, Cheyenne, OK
  • Vici Community Room, 604 Main Street, Vici, OK
  • Woodward Conference Center, 3401 Centennial Drive, Woodward, OK

Although the state had record-breaking high temperatures recently, it typically has increased fire risk when it transitions from winter to spring. Over the winter, built-up dormant and brown plans dry out and Keith Merckx, a spokesperson for the Oklahoma Forestry Services, said when springs arrive, temperatures fluctuate and wind speeds pick up.

“And all of these things are what caused these fires to start picking up and so we’re pretty much right on time this time of year,” Merckx said.

He said conditions can vary and ultimately, it’s up to the long-term weather patterns.

Oklahoma is edging toward March, which is one of the state’s windiest months and it has the largest number of wildfires compared to the rest of the year. Merckx said he calls March Oklahoma’s “official wildfire month.”

Cooler temperatures are expected to dull the state’s fire risk but he said that doesn’t mean it will go away. Later this week, wind and temperatures are expected to pick back up.

“And so this weekend we are looking at, once again, at having increased fire danger,” Merckx said. “There's going to be a risk for significant fire out there both Saturday and Sunday.”

Right now, there does not seem to be as heightened a risk as earlier in the week but he said that could change.

Because of the weather conditions, he said people need to use common sense and extreme caution when doing anything that might spark a wildfire.

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This report was produced by the Oklahoma Public Media Exchange, a collaboration of public media organizations. Help support collaborative journalism by donating at the link at the top of this webpage.

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