Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Wind Gusts Spread Wildfires

Wind gusts up to 48 miles per hour spawned 15 fires in Sequoyah County on Tuesday.

Steve Rutherford, Sequoyah County Emergency Management director, said, “We were very fortunate. It was a bad situation with that wind.”

Rutherford praised all those who helped extinguish the blazes.

“Our dispatch was awesome,” he commented.

Rutherford does not yet have a tally of the number of acres burned by the wildfires. Those numbers will be submitted later by the fire departments involved. He said one or two outbuildings were destroyed, and a fire north of Sallisaw singed some power lines, which were to be replaced on Wednesday.

No injuries were reported and no buildings were destroyed other than one or two outbuildings. Some wildfires did come close to buildings, but were extinguished before doing any damage.

Rutherford said the two worst fires were the one north of Sallisaw off U.S. Highway 59 near Ernest’s Salvage, and one northwest of Muldrow in the Blackjack area. Another fire was along Carlisle Road west of Vian, and firefighters had to cut the fence along Interstate 40 to access and extinguish that blaze.

Rutherford said five fire departments and the Forestry Department responded to the fire north of Sallisaw and five departments and the Forestry Department fought the Blackjack area fire. The fire north of Sallisaw was believed ignited from a burn barrel in which fire lingered from a burn the previous day. Rutherford said he did not know what ignited the other fires.

“We had at least 15 of our 21 county fire departments dispatched to fight fires on Tuesday,” Rutherford said.

He added that National Guard fire-fighting helicopters were on standby if needed in the county.

In addition, a fire at an abandoned home in Muldrow Tuesday evening required the Muldrow Fire Department to be dispatched again.

“Ironically,” Rutherford said, “the wind blew over a dead tree in Vian and it took out a water line.”

Rutherford said winds were only predicted to be at 20 miles per hour on Wednesday. County officials will be considering another burn ban, but with rain predicted over the coming weekend, Rutherford doubted a ban was be called for.

Rutherford doesn’t relish another windy day like Tuesday. He said, “We stayed really busy. I don’t want to do that again.”

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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