(GUTHRIE, Okla.) — In searing 98-degree heat on Monday, Blackhawk helicopters dropped water on stubborn hotspots near the town of Guthrie, Oklahoma, north of Oklahoma City.
Thirty buildings — including at least six houses — were lost even though many homeowners battled the flames with whatever they could find.
The flames killed a 56-year-old man Sunday who had been warned to leave his home but had refused, authorities said. The fire chief said the blaze had been 75-percent contained and residents were being allowed to return to their homes.
The fire kicked up Sunday afternoon — what was supposed to be a controlled burn on someone’s property quickly got out of control, thanks to winds gusting at 40 mph.
“It’s very scary,” Debbie Patterson said. “You just have to leave it in God’s hands. If it burns, it burns.”
With the brush incredibly dry, firefighters had to call for backup because they were worried that they might lose a small church in the next few minutes.
Homeowner Scott Ward said firefighters had worked many miracles.
His dream home, peeking through burned-out trees, is weeks away from completion and was specially designed for one of this 8-year-old twin boys, who requires the use of a wheelchair.
Monday, the house still stood strong.
“It [the fire] was 15 feet away,” Ward said. “I thought for sure it was going to be gone…. My neighbor called me up and said, ‘Hey, the firefighters are saying everything is still there and didn’t believe it.’ … I was so grateful and shocked to find that the house and the camper were still there this morning. I can’t even describe it.”
It is supposed to be tornado season in Oklahoma. Instead, it is all about the heat and the drought.
The last six months in central Oklahoma have been the second-driest on record. Parts of the state are more parched than they were during the Dust Bowl, authorities said.
The historic drought now stretches south into Texas and west to California. Across the West, it is shaping up to be a brutal wildfire season. California already has seen twice the number of fires it does in an average year.
And nationwide, wildfires have consumed more than twice as many acres this year as compared to last.
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