Wildfires continue burning in western Oklahoma
SEILING — Wildfires that started in western Oklahoma last week continued to burn, with evacuations again ordered Tuesday afternoon for Seiling and parts of Dewey County.
Firefighters and air support scrambled to suppress the fires, which have burned across hundreds of thousands of acres since Thursday.
The level of fire danger Tuesday from west of Alfalfa County to Cotton County exceeded conditions seen in the past decade. Relative humidity in low single digits, high temperatures and sustained winds between 25 to 35 mph were expected, with gusts up to 50 mph.
The temperature hit 98 degrees at the Gage airport in Ellis County, according to the National Weather Service. Gage is about 20 miles southwest of Woodward.
By Tuesday morning, the largest fire had grown by about 2,500 acres. The Rhea fire in Dewey County was still only about 3 percent contained, and had grown to just over 248,500 acres by 8 a.m., forestry officials said.
That fire had grown further by Tuesday afternoon, Oklahoma Emergency Management spokeswoman Keli Cain said, but an updated acreage was not available.
Just before 4 p.m., the city of Seiling and residents along and east of U.S. 60 and along and near U.S. 270 southeast of Seiling were told to evacuate by the Dewey County sheriff, Cain said.
The second largest fire — the 34 Complex fire in Woodward County — continued scorching across about 68,000 acres and still stood at 45 percent containment as of Tuesday morning, forestry officials said.
Additional fires were reported in Beaver and Texas counties in the Panhandle, but their size was not yet known, Cain said.
Another wildfire still burning Tuesday morning near Martha in Jackson County was about 70 percent contained to the 33 acres it burned, according to forestry officials.
Two people — a Leedey man and a Dewey County woman — were killed by the wildfires, according to state emergency management officials. No new deaths were reported Tuesday.
Fire weather conditions are expected to be near critical Wednesday, with temperatures topping out in the upper 70s with wind gusts up to 39 mph anticipated, according to the weather service.
The outlook for fire weather will drop to low Thursday through Sunday, the weather service said.
The governor has issued a burn ban for Alfalfa, Beaver, Beckham, Blaine, Caddo, Canadian, Cimarron, Comanche, Cotton, Custer, Dewey, Ellis, Garfield, Grady, Grant, Greer, Harmon, Harper, Jackson, Jefferson, Kay, Kingfisher, Kiowa, Logan, Major, Noble, Oklahoma, Osage, Pawnee, Roger Mills, Stephens, Texas, Tillman, Washita, Woods, and Woodward counties.
Canadian, Grant, and Major counties are under county burn bans.