Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management
March 11, 2011 5 p.m.
CONTACT: Michelann Ooten, Public Information Officer
WILDFIRES IMPACTING STATE
Due to the severe wildfires across the state, the State Emergency Operations Center is at Level Three activation, which involves extended operating hours for key personnel. The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management (OEM) is in contact with emergency managers in the affected areas. Additionally, OEM continues to work with the Oklahoma National Guard, Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Oklahoma Forestry Division, Oklahoma Health Department, American Red Cross and the Salvation Army.
STATE OF EMERGENCY
Gov. Mary Fallin today declared a State of Emergency for all 77 Oklahoma counties due to the devastating wildfires. Under the executive order, state agencies can make emergency purchases and acquisitions needed to expedite the delivery of resources to local jurisdictions. The declaration also marks a first step toward seeking federal assistance should it be necessary.
Very warm temperatures have combined with dry air and gusty winds to create rapid fire growth potential. Winds are 15 to 25 mph with gusts up to 40 mph. A cold front will move into the state tonight and is expected to bring with it relief from the current fire weather conditions. As the front passes ongoing fires the wind shift may cause the fire to turn southeast.
More than two dozen fires have been reported statewide including in Beggs, Choctaw, Goldsby, Harrah, Kingfisher, Midwest City, Norman, Oklahoma City, Shawnee and Stroud. Fires were also reported in areas of Caddo, Comanche, Creek, McClain, Okfuskee and Pottawatomie counties. Some fires have required evacuations. Numerous homes have been destroyed and damaged.
The American Red Cross has opened Evacuation Centers in:
Choctaw - Harmony Christian Church, 7100 S. Choctaw Road
Harrah – Harrah Church, 101 S. Dobbs
The Salvation Army is assisting with food services.
The State EOC is working with the Oklahoma National Guard to provide numerous water drops in Beggs, Goldsby, Harrah and Shawnee.
Wildfires are often caused by human activity. High winds and dry conditions can set the stage for potentially severe fires. The greatest single cause is when burning debris is not properly contained and sparks or burning trash blow into the air. Oklahomans can help prevent fires if they:
- Be careful when pulling off a road or driving into a field. Hot catalytic converters can ignite vegetation.
- Avoid burning trash. Even a barrel covered with a screen can allow a spark to escape, igniting nearby vegetation.
- Do not use fireworks during holidays.
- If you smoke in your car, extinguish cigarettes in vehicle ashtrays. Never toss a cigarette out of a car window, and don’t put cigarettes out on the ground.
- Keep a fire extinguisher and water handy when working outdoors with equipment that gets hot, or involves sparks, such as welding equipment. Water down outdoor work areas in advance if possible.
If advised to evacuate, do so immediately. Choose a route away from the fire hazard and be alert to changes in the speed and direction of fire and smoke.
When weather conditions make wildfires more likely in your area, prepare by taking the following precautions:
- Keep firefighting tools handy, such as: ladder long enough to reach the roof, shovel, rake and buckets.
- Place connected garden hoses on all sides of the house for emergency use.
- Know all emergency exits from your house.
- Learn all routes leading out of your neighborhood.
As fires actually approach, take the following actions:
- Park your car facing the direction of escape.
- Shut off gas at the meter. Only a qualified professional can safely turn the gas back on.
- Turn off propane tanks.
- Place combustible patio furniture inside.
For more information about wildfire safety, visit the following websites:
Oklahoma Forestry Services
Next Situation Update: As conditions warrant