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.
“Maybe there was a creek (that stopped the fire),” she said. “Maybe the wind blew it in a different direction.”
Gov. Mary Fallin met with residents and local officials in Mannford and nearby Drumright on Sunday, telling reporters afterward that the state is doing all it can to help put 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: at a senior center in Cushing and churches in Sand Springs, Lexington and Choctaw.
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, provides residents with information on finding government assistance, such as replacing birth certificates and Social Security cards.
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. Since late last week, as many as 18 fires have been reported.
The National Weather Service said .15 to .16 inches of rain fell early Sunday in the area, but no more was expected until at least midweek. Meteorologist Bart Haake said temperatures for the next two to three days are expected to be milder, in the 90s rather than above 110 degrees.
The causes of the various fires had not been determined Sunday, although one that began Friday near Luther was being investigated as a possible arson. Witnesses told Oklahoma County sheriff’s deputies they saw a man throw a lighted newspaper from a black Ford pickup. Sheriff’s spokesman Mark Myers said Sunday that no arrests had been made and no suspects identified.