Sallisaw firefighters were on the scene at a wildfire on Taylor Drive until around 9:30 p.m. Monday, and one home owner is lucky to have escaped relatively uninjured, Sallisaw Fire Chief Anthony Armstrong said Tuesday morning.
The fire destroyed 112 round hay bales, burned through one telephone pole, and endangered several homes on Taylor Drive, but there were no serious injuries and no homes were lost.
Armstrong said the fire began when a resident, Ned Erwin, was driving his truck through his field. Armstrong said when Erwin attempted to switch his truck to four-wheel drive, something malfunctioned and caught the truck on fire. Armstrong said the truck caught fire quickly, and Erwin had to throw himself out of the truck, and roll to a nearby mud puddle to avoid the flames.
“We didn’t even know he was out there until some of my firemen heard him yelling,” Armstrong said. “They were able to get to him and take him to safety.”
Armstrong said Erwin did have burns on his face and arms but refused treatment at the scene.
The truck fire was fanned by Monday’s high winds and quickly spread to the sage grass and beyond, Armstrong said. The wildfire then caught the 112 bales of hay on fire, which were stacked about 60 feet from a house.”
“The fire actually burned past the house,” Armstrong said.
He called in a dozer from the State Forestry office and a backhoe from the city to tear apart the hay bales and contain the fire. But flying embers from the hay bales also caused concern, and firemen, wearing air packs because of the heavy smoke, were stationed at houses along Taylor Drive with pumpers to ensure none caught fire.
One woman was evacuated from her home and firemen went in later to retrieve and save her dogs from the smoke.
While firemen fought the blaze, Taylor Drive was closed to traffic for about four hours. Armstrong said the road had to be closed because water lines had to be laid along the road from the nearest hydrant, and vehicles driving over the lines would have destroyed them, interrupting the water flow.
At one point, a light pole caught fire, fell across the road and had to be removed, Armstrong said. He said 18 Sallisaw firefighters helped contain the fire.
Armstrong said he checked on the site Tuesday morning, and the hay bales are still smoldering (above) but not ablaze.
Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director
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