Wildfires Turn Deadly in Oklahoma, Burns 300,000 Acres-plus

The Rhea Fire in northwest Oklahoma has killed two people and has burned 242,000 acres since April 12, 2018. ( TornadoTitans.com )

Two people have died in Oklahoma as the result of wildfires that have burned more than 300,000 acres.

A man in Roger Mills County died as a result of injuries sustained from the Rhea Fire that began near Leedey, while a woman in Dewey County died from the same fire after being trapped in her vehicle.

Dewey County Sheriff Clay Sander is investigating the death in his county as a homicide. Should the Rhea Fire be determined as being started by a person authorities could charge that person with homicide.

According to the Sunday morning Fire Situation report from the Oklahoma Forestry Service (OFS), the Rhea Fire has burned 242,000 acres and is currently only 3% contained. More than 500 firefighters have been battling the blaze with the assistance of 3 heavy air tankers, a large helicopter and an air attack plane.

In neighboring Woodward County the 34 Complex Fire has been downgraded in size to 53,000 acres after originally being projected at 110,000 acres of damage. The 34 Complex Fire is at 25% containment with the help of 65 firefighters who have been focusing on putting out hotspots.

There are a number of other small fires burning across the state that are at much better containment than the large wildfires plaguing northwest Oklahoma. A fire started near the town of Martha on Saturday afternoon burned several structures in the community.

A state of emergency was declared by Gov. Mary Fallin on Friday for 52 counties in drought stricken Oklahoma, opening up resources and funding for those areas. 

Officials with OFS expect fire conditions to continue in the state through Tuesday due to dry, hot and windy weather.

Aid Available for Producers

While there have been no reports of livestock losses from authorities due to the wildfires, cattle producers do have aid options should they need it.

The Oklahoma Cattlemen's Foundation (OCF) has established a fire relief fund to help producers in the state. More information about OCF’s fire relief fund can be found on the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association website and people can also make donations to the program.

There is also the Livestock Indemnity Program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which can help pay for losses of livestock. More information about the program can be found online or by visiting with your local Farm Service Agency officials.

Hay donations are being organized with the help of local Oklahoma State University Extension agents.

“Extension is not handling any money, but we will be matching up people who want to donate their time and effort with producers needing help to rebuild fences, transport hay and similar farm and ranch activities,” says Dana Bay, Woodward County OSU Extension agricultural educator. Bay is coordinating regional efforts with her fellow Extension professionals in Dewey, Custer, Roger Mills and Woodward counties.

If you are interested in donating hay, please call:

  • (405) 496-9329
  • (405) 397-7912
  • (405) 590-0106

Orphaned Calf Relief of southwest Kansas was in the Woodward area on Sunday afternoon to pick up orphaned calves from producers who may have lost cows. The calves will be returned to the producer at no cost. If you are interested in this service, please call (405) 590-0106 as soon as possible. Orphaned Calf Relief was started last year following the Starbuck Fire that burned in southwest Kansas and northwest Oklahoma.

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