Wildfires raced across the grasslands of Oklahoma and northern Texas in late 2005 and early 2006. Extremely dry, windy conditions created a fire hazard, and several small towns were devastated as out-of-control fires sped across thelandscape.
3 January 2005
04:35 hrs UTC
click on image for a 250 m resolution
This false-color image captured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASAs Terra satellite on3 January 2006, shows the plains of Oklahoma between Tulsa (upper right) and Oklahoma City(left) dotted with burn scars from recent fires (brownish red patches).
Last Major Texas Grass Fire Nearly Contained
The last of the major Texas grassfires is nearly contained although firefighters continued to monitor flare-ups statewide amid slightly lighter winds and coolertemperatures.
According to the Texas Forest Service a fire that scorched about 50,000 acres in Irion and Reagan counties should be fully contained by laterWednesday. Crews worked to finish the last three miles of the perimeter.Otherwise, the nearly 60 fires that had broken out since Sunday are inactive.
There were no deaths reported in those fires. But since late December, grass fires cross Texas have killed three people, burned more than 250,000 acres and destroyed at least 250homes.
Fire crews fighting to contain grass fires across three states
Firefighters chased a grass fire hop-scotching across a northeast Oklahoma town Tuesday, while officials in Texas and New Mexico kept tabs on the wind and several massive wildfires their crews were fighting to contain.
In Shamrock, the suspected arson fire destroyed an abandoned schoolhouse, a home and other buildings as it raced through the town of about 100 residents. It took an air tanker repeatedly dropping fire retardant to put down theblaze.
In the past week and a half, grass fires started by as little as a spark from a car or an arcing powerline have burned more than 600,000 acres across a drought-stricken stretch of Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico. The fires have destroyed at least 450 homes and killed four people.
A National Weather Service red flag warning was in effect Tuesday and Wednesday, meaning heat, low humidity and gusting wind could quickly spread wildfires. The Texas region is in one of its worst droughts in 50years.
Fire contained in southern Oklahoma, another blaze reported
Firefighters aided by retardant-dropping airplanes contained a 7,000-acre grass fire in southern Oklahoma’s Arbuckle Mountains Wednesday and began battling another fire in the area.
Elsewhere in Oklahoma, about a dozen grass fires flared in dry, sunny conditions but firefighters were able to quickly knock downflames.
After containing the fire near Davis in southern Oklahoma, firefighters began tackling another fire several miles south of that city. Tanker aircraft, based nearby in Ardmore, could be seen dumping their huge loads of retardant on the blaze.
All of the wildfires in the area were contained Wednesday evening, fire officials said.
Statewide, grass fires have killed two people, burned across 353,000 acres and destroyed more than 220 homes and businesses and since Nov. 1.
Highs were in the low 60s Wednesday in mostly sunny weather. Winds stayed under 20 mph in most areas. No rain was in sight. Forecasters were predicting that Saturday could be a particularly dangerous day, with warm temperatures, low humidity and high windsexpected.
On Tuesday, a grass fire that authorities suspect was set by an arsonist hop scotched across the small northeastern Oklahoma town of Shamrock, destroying an abandoned school house and one home and damaging other structures.
The fire started between 1:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. and was contained about 4 p.m. An air tanker repeatedly dropped fire retardant on theblaze.
Arson was suspected because the fire began near Highway 16, and other fires that had burned at least 10,000 acres nearby over the weekend also appeared to have been set near roadways.
In Anadarko in western Oklahoma, an 18-year-old man was arrested Monday on arson charges in connection with three small grass fires and a house fire set on New Year’s Day. Justin Wilkerson was to be arraignedWednesday.
Authorities believe most of the fires have been accidental, with some started by people burning trash in violation of a ban on all outdoor burning, which has been in place since Nov. 15. Cigarettes thrown from cars, fireworks and arcing or fallen power lines have also been blamed for some of the grass fires.
Oklahoma grass fires killed a 68-year-old man on Dec. 28 and a 68-year-old woman last month.
Preliminary estimates of structural damage caused by grass fires since Nov. 1 placed the total at $10 million, but actual damages are expected to be farhigher, according to the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.