Okla. Families Homeless After Fires

Families across the state returned to homes that were turned into charred remnants after dozens of wildfires, fueled by dry conditions and high winds, raged across the state.

About 50,000 acres burned Sunday and Monday, and more than 30 families were displaced statewide because of the wildfires.

Waves of flames near Velma in Stephens County destroyed 16 structures Sunday night and left residents from four houses homeless.

Lois Northcutt, 72, barely had time to gather a few outfits before evacuating her trailer home three miles west of downtown Velma. She returned Sunday night to a pile of ash and blackened, twisted metal that once served as her roof.

"I lost everything," Northcutt said. "Everything."

Many continued to worry Monday as firefighters patiently tried to contain the fires.

Sue Auld watched helplessly as the smoke rose in a valley where her single-story house sat.

"I left last night around 10:30," she said. "I grabbed some pictures, some legal papers and my cat, Katie. I haven't been allowed to go back in since.

"I just wonder now if I'll have anything left standing when I do go back."

In Mayes County, where fires continued to burn Monday near Chouteau and Pryor, Linda looked beyond her charred home, where pages of recipes from her grandmother's cookbooks flapped against trees and brush.

Everything — irreplaceable antiques, vintage cars, eight beloved pets — had been consumed in the perfect storm of fires: dry land, high winds and the ignition to set it all ablaze.

Ring and her husband, Bill, choked back tears in a United Methodist Church shelter in Chouteau and called their insurance agent. But most of the other 10 families huddled in the church's fellowship hall had no recovery plan. They also had nothing left.

"We lost everything. We have no insurance. It hurts so bad — it's all gone," said a tearful Margaret Dolan, whose mobile home burned down late Sunday, along with 17 other structures countywide.

Hundreds of Oklahomans in at least 14 eastern counties watched in horror as walls of fire 10 stories high skipped across pastures and into neighborhoods, selecting targets with the hit-and-miss unpredictability of tornadoes. Flames devoured 50-foot trees and the heat melted vinyl siding from homes.

Sand Springs Fire Chief Tom Jenkins estimated a burn pattern from a fire fought by his department to be one mile wide and one-and-a-half miles long.

"This was definitely a career-making fire," Jenkins said. "When you get a good feel for the fire and size it up, it had already changed its course.

"We really sweated some bullets for a while, but our firefighters stayed the course and followed the action plan developed for us. And it worked, thank God."