Oklahoma City wildfire sends three firefighters to hospital

Oklahoma City wildfire sends three firefighters to hospital

02 August 2011

published by http://newsok.com

USA — A wildfire in southwest Oklahoma City Monday afternoon destroyed a barn and some outbuildings and sent three firefighters to the hospital, authorities said.

No homes were lost, but many were threatened in the fire that started near SW 119 and Mustang Road about 2:15 p.m., Oklahoma City fire Battalion Chief Brian Stanaland said.

Eighty acres burned in an intense firefight that lasted about five hours and spread down to SW 104 and about half a mile on the east and west sides of Mustang Road, Stanaland said. About 40 Oklahoma City firefighters were on the scene as well as crews from nine other departments, he said.

Two Oklahoma City firefighters were taken to hospitals for heat exhaustion, and a third suffered second-degree burns on his hands, Stanaland said.

Some people were evacuated from their homes during the fire, and others weren’t allowed home while the blaze was being extinguished, but a precise number wasn’t available.

Fire crews had the fire contained by about 6 p.m. but were expected to remain at the scene through the night to hose down any flare-ups and hot spots.

An Army National Guard helicopter conducted water drops, and the Oklahoma City police helicopter also assisted the fire department.

“What we do is put one of our chief officers up in a helicopter, and they’re able to do reconnaissance from the air. They’re getting a big picture view,” Stanaland said.

The high temperatures forced firefighters to take frequent breaks and be evaluated by medical personnel.

“We actually have wildland firefighting gear that’s a little bit lighter weight, but it’s still not comfortable at all. It’s made of a material that’s not very breathable, so it’s very, very hot in that type of gear,” Stanaland said.

Fire paramedics conduct medical screenings of crews and make sure that they have plenty of water to drink

“Even the day before they come on duty, we’re getting them to hydrate the day before. If we see they have any signs of heat illness, we evaluate them immediately and transport them to the hospital if necessary,” he said.

The cause of the fire has not been determined.

“Our situation as far as lack of rain is getting worse in the metro. Everything burns so readily because that heat pulls the moisture out of everything,” Stanaland said.

“Low humidity, high heat pulling the moisture out of any vegetation, and we did have some gusty winds. You add all those ingredients together and any little spark is going to travel fast,” he said.

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