Better weather should aid Oklahoma wildfire fight
OKLAHOMA CITY – A bout of calmer winds and higher humidity on Thursday helped firefighters battle large wildfires across Oklahoma, though fire conditions were critical in Arizona and New Mexico.
The fires have killed at least two people and injured nearly two dozen others in Oklahoma as weather fueled the blazes earlier this week. Temperatures reached 99 degrees, the humidity fell as low as 4 percent and winds gusted to more than 50 mph (80 kph).
But firefighters were able to get containment to about 15 percent on a large fire northwest ok Oklahoma City that has so far burned about 440 square miles (1,140 sq. kilometers), according to U.S. Forest Service spokesman Todd Schroeder.
"We've got a good weather day and our crews will be able to get a lot of work done," Schroeder said, noting that Thursday marked the second day of decent fire-fighting weather "after that horrific day the day before."
Firefighters also were able to get about 45 percent containment on a fire near Woodward that has burned 106 square miles (275 sq. kilometer).
In Arizona, restrictions on campfires and outdoor smoking will take effect Friday on state and federally managed public lands. Strong winds and low humidity also are hampering efforts to contain a fire that has burned about 20 square miles (52 sq. kilometers) on the Fort Apache and San Carlos Indian reservation and the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests.
Tom Story, spokesman for the Southwest Coordinating Group, a federal and state agency that sent crews to fight the fire, said the conditions are extremely dangerous.
In western New Mexico, the fire danger is rated extremely critical because of low humidity and wind gusts of up to 55 mph (88 kph), according to the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center. Two fires a few miles apart in the Cibola National Forest have so far burned about 20 square miles (51.8 sq. kilometers).
"Any time you have fire, it's a critical time," spokesman Peter D'Aquanni said. "There's more potential out there today for this fire to grow, but we've been preparing for it."
Fire crews were able to nearly extinguish a fire that crossed into Kansas from Colorado and burned a total of about 75 square miles (194 sq. kilometers). Crews were monitoring hot spots on Thursday.
In the Texas Panhandle, a fire has burned an estimated 50 square miles (130 sq. kilometers) and was 80 percent contained, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service.
Associated Press reporters Paul Davenport in Phoenix and Heather Hollingsworth in Kansas City, Missouri, contributed to this report.