Raging Inferno

E-mail Harrigan

Jan. 11, 2006 10:14 a.m.

Dumped fire clothes in the bathroom, smells like a slim jim.

In the bureau today, covering either a bank hostage taking or an escaped inmate.

Ocean Avenue Starbucks still charging .07 cents tax on NY Times despite my objections.

Considering a historical dinner party with the following guests:

1. Oona Chaplin
2. Mr. T
3. Mel Ott
4. Bobby Orr
5. Yoko Ono
6. Asta
7. Yogi Berra
8. Solti
9. Sela Ward

Jan. 7, 2006 11:52 a.m.
Shawnee, OK
Video: Volunteers Battle Flames

Everyone in the TV business has different goals. The guy in my ear's goal was to make everything fit in the show. He was worried now that he had breaking news and asked if I could keep it to 90 seconds. We did the hit and he came into my ear and said great, that was exactly 90 seconds.

There is a company that molds earpieces to fit your ears. They keep your measurements on file, for lefty and righty. Lots of people who appear on TV often don't have molded earpieces, and the standard ones pop out of their ears.

The bulldozers here are pulling out. The fires mostly start mid-day. When you go to one you can often see smoke from another, and you try to figure which one is worse. Most of the firefighters are volunteers, many with second jobs. They've been at it every day for weeks and today is expected to be the worst day yet — hot, windy, low humidity. Local fire departments get about $2,000 a year, so some are spending their own money on gas for the pumper trucks. They used to have foam and water, but many have run out of foam and are now using just water.

After one day your clothes and shoes are ruined. When you wash your hair at night you can smell the ash and feel it crunch.

I stood in a circle near a fence in front of a fire the other day. The firefighters had yellow, flame retardant suits that were black in parts. They were from different states. Some were missing the deer hunting season. Others were not.

Jan. 6, 2006 9:35 a.m.
Oklahoma City
Video: Fire's Edge

I got to try on a new flame retardant suit in Roff, Oklahoma yesterday afternoon, as we found a grassfire that was burning high. To get in most fields you have to go over a barbed-wire fence that is about chest high. Jachman held it down for me yesterday, but I still caught my pants and split them down the middle. I've watched how the firefighters go over. They have gloves on and approach the fence sideways, like a high jumper. One gloved hand goes to the top wire, the other hand to the next highest wire, both hands push down and you throw your leg over in the same motion. Jachman and I bought gloves.

Jan. 5, 2006 9:32 a.m.
Oklahoma City
Video: Acres Destroyed

We chased another fire to Seminole. You go to the command center and wait for radio reports or wait to see the smoke rising, which is what happened yesterday. The grass fires burn fast. This one was 80 acres and it was gone in less than a half hour. The Seminole Fire Department responded in two and a half minutes. Crowds of people were out at the corners, watching to see if it would get to their houses. After it was out the earth was one big, black square. When you walked on it, it crunched and black ash flew up in your face. There were small holes in the black where smoke came out as if something was still burning underground. It felt like walking on another planet.

Today is expected to be a high wind day, which means bad fires, as is Saturday. The other crew left, the truck left and the producer leaves tomorrow. So it will be just me and Jachman. I talked to Germinder about how to power the videophone and satellite phone near the flames. A vehicle can't get there and a gas-powered generator might not be allowed in, due to fears of sparking. I asked how long a car battery would last. Germinder suggested a marine battery, also used for trolling. I've wanted one of those anyway, since they are waterproof and can be strong in a hurricane. He also suggested a motorcycle battery. Then there is the question of how to carry it. 40 pounds, he said, gets heavy fast. Jachman is going to Target to look for a sling or a knapsack. He was a boyscout so he will come up with something.

Rib eye, I've found, is the true test of a steak house. I expected to get good beef in OKC, but initial attempts have been disappointing. The last fine rib eye I had was in Florida, sitting outside at Prime 112, bits of minced garlic glistening in the sun. That was a rib eye.

Jan. 3, 2006 8:45 a.m.
Shawnee, Oklahoma
Video: Okla. Fires

Drove a few hundred miles yesterday looking for flames. Went with an information officer. We had a 4:31 p.m. live shot to make, so finally we had to pull over next to a house that burned down the night before. Smoke, no fire.

Talked to the woman across the street from the fire. She had her car packed and was ready to go. She watched the flames from her driveway.

We did the shots from a burned out foundation. When you stepped on the ash, smoke came out of the earth, like it was still on fire. They called the black stuff "char." They also called bulldozers "dozers," but I wasn't there yet.

Jachman went with a "Big and Tasty" at the drive-through. He did it for the vegetables. I followed suit, for the taste. Someone mistakenly threw out Jachman's fries, to which he reacted with a quiet sadness.

Jan. 2, 2006 4:10 a.m.
Video: Charred House

Two hours, 10 minutes before the flight. I stopped by the bureau and got eight cases of gear. Jachman was bringing gear and there was a satellite truck, but you never know. You always want the ability to go up.

I never covered a fire before. The advantage here is that there are so many of them it will be difficult for authorities to keep you away. As this is my first one, I will be cautious.

Layover in Memphis en route to Oklahoma City. I watched a local reporter on TV — he had no flame. A satellite truck is already in place, but in a safe, dull background. This could be a test of how the plastic videophones hold up in the heat.

I asked Jachman to bring an inverter so they can be powered off the car. I stood in front of the screen, right under the speaker, and watched the flames lick around Oklahoma City. It looked bad. I was thinking it might be the worst spot.

I read the wires about a few small Texas towns that had been wiped out. That's what you look for in a hurricane, and I expect to approach a fire the same way. You look for the spot of most destruction, where there are flames behind you and houses burning. In the chairs around me in the airport they watched, too, but these were people who lived there. They had houses to worry about.

Memphis is known for wet barbecue. I sampled a pulled pork sandwich at Jim Neeley's Interstate — extraordinary, even at 7 am.

E-mail Harrigan

For the best steaks in Oklahoma go to Freddy Paul’s in Stillwater, OK. I just don’t believe I have ever had a better steak anywhere.


You should ask your fellow fire-fighters where to get a good rib-eye. They'll know.

Tulsa, OK

Mr. Harrigan,

I noticed your journal said you were looking for a good steak place. Cattlemen's is an amazing restaurant right at the entrance of the OKC Stockyards. They serve all sorts of amazing beef dishes...and even George Bush, Sr. has dined there. If you find yourself there, make sure you have the house dressing with your salad and order some lamb fries for an appetizer to make your Cattlemen's experience the best possible. Enjoy!


Ribeye and "minced garlic," what's that?! Here in our Sooner state we just slap that baby on the grill add a little salt and pepper and cook until done.

Duncan, Oklahoma

Marinate them in Kikkoman Soy Sauce (with chopped whole garlic, pepper, and I like to add ground up fennel and caraway seed) for at least 24 hrs, best after 72 hrs (in the fridge). Fry (!) in a cast iron skillet with olive oil at very high heat. You'll need a good vent-a-hood and a fire extinguisher, or use the skillet on a hot, hot grill; a skillet lid keeps the spatter (and fire) to a minimum. Cook only 2-3 minutes on a side depending on thickness. It really helps to pour the rest of the marinade into the skillet when finished timing the cooking, turn off the heat, and caramelize the steak with several turns; this makes super gravy if you care for that. Select the best quality. It's so good, it will "make you slap ya mammy". Have you tried flank steak? I cut mine with thin slices, 45 degrees against the grain, then marinate and cook as above; some folks marinate the flank first, cook, and then slice. I have used the marinade for as much as 14 days on really toughvenison steak, still tough, but tastier.

Greenville, MS


Sorry. If you want good beef you have to go to KC not OKC.


Hey Steve! If you get down to north Texas I'll cook you the best Rib Eye Steak you'll ever eat. (and some good homebrew to wash it down!)

We are off of US 287 just outside of Wichita Falls. (I44)

Hopefully we will not have any more fires around here...


Why am I not surprised that you're on your way to the fires? Steve, my man, do you ever sleep, and do you have a home?

Fort Worth, Texas