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OK wildfires continue

Wildfires continued to burn thousands of acres across eastern Oklahoma Wednesday.

BY HEATHER MOYER | BALTIMORE | November 30, 2005

Wildfires continued to burn thousands of acres across eastern Oklahoma Wednesday. The scattered fires have already burned more than 30 homes in the region.

The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management has received reports of wildfires in 16 counties. Officials report that more than 50,000 acres burned in 24 hours.

Damage assessments are continuing, but initial assessments show that wildfires destroyed 18 homes in Chouteau, 12 homes in Mayes County, three homes in Okfuskee County, and one in Rogers County. Fire officials say the worst wildfires are in Wagoner, Stephens, Garvin and McIntosh counties. Two shelters are open in the towns of Muskogee and Chouteau. No deaths or injuries have been reported.

Much of Oklahoma has been in an extreme drought for months, conditions which only helped the fires rapidly increase in size. A burn ban went into effect Nov. 15 with hopes of decreasing the chances of a wildfire in such dry conditions.

Authorities are also investigating some of the fires as arson cases.

High winds in the past few days also helped the recent wildfires quickly spread. Some residents reported seeing walls of fire as high as ten stories roaring across fields and neighborhoods.

Forecasts from the National Weather Service call for decreasing winds Wednesday and for the remainder of the week. Thousands around the city of Tulsa are still without power due to the high winds.

Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry issued an emergency declaration Tuesday to help families recover from the fires. State lawmakers are also considering measures to help farmers who lost valuable hay supplies to the flames.

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