Crews are still working to suppress the large Pharoah-Nuyaka fire east of Okmulgee, which has burned 21,840 acres and is now 60% contained. On Monday (February 22), Oklahoma Forestry Services (OFS) will turn the fire over to unified command between local fire departments from Nuyaka, Sunrise, Okmulgee, Okemah, Wilson and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).
“Interagency cooperation between local fire-fighting resources, state resources including OFS, federal resources including BIA and county Emergency Managers was the key to success on this complex, fast-moving fire,” said Incident Commander Drew Daily, OFS.
“All of the resources were utilized in a “doing what they do best” mind-set within the organization of the incident.”
Fire behavior was not as active as in previous days, but with winds gusting up to 20 mph there were still several interior “islands” of unburned fuels burning. On a fire this large, people will likely see and smell smoke for several more days. Sunday OFS firefighters used hand tools and a burn out further secure control lines in the interior of the fire to further protect homes and structures in proximity to these “islands” that continue to burn.
Wildfires have burned an estimated 61,900 acres, numerous homes and outbuildings since Thursday. “Fire departments across a large part of the state had their hands full battling blazes on Thursday,” said State Forester George Geissler. “Total acres burned are still being tallied and Office of Emergency Management structure damage assessments are on-going,” Geissler said.
Weather conditions are predicted to moderate today and tomorrow, with higher humidity and lower temperatures. OFS officials hope those forecasts hold up because western Oklahoma could experience 50 mph gusts on Tuesday.
“With predicted relative humidity in the 60% range gusty winds won’t be as much of a concern,” said Daily. “But if the humidity drops we could see another round of new fire activity.”
This small break in the dry, hot and windy days will give firefighters across Oklahoma a much needed break.
Oklahoma Forestry Services is the state’s lead agency related to wildland fire prevention and protection. For additional information about wildfires, visit www.forestry.ok.gov/wildfire-information.
NOTE: This is adapted from a press release distributed by Oklahoma Forestry Services.