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Rural Oklahoma incurs wildfire damages

Chris Meyers

Around the same time, the National Weather Service released a statement calling the wildfires inflicting western Oklahoma as “extremely critical,” the worst classification the agency provides. Indeed, the results from the Rhea, Oklahoma, fire and 34 Complex fire left a significant destructive path.

According to the Oklahoma State University Extension Office, the fires burned over 348,000 acres and left over 1,600 cattle dead, with many others burned or hurt. At least 2,100 miles of fence were damaged or destroyed, leaving thousands of animals displaced and in need of emergency feed. The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management reports that 102 homes were damaged by fires in western Oklahoma. On April 13, Gov. Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency for 52 counties and placed a burn ban on 16 counties considered at high risk. In April, the U.S. Drought Monitor indicated 34.8 percent of Oklahoma was in D3 (extreme) and D4 (exceptional) drought, including 10.7 million acres of D4 conditions in western Oklahoma and the Panhandle. Harsh drought conditions combined with strong winds, low humidity and warm temperatures contribute to extreme fire behavior, according to officials at the National Weather Service.

Collectively, rural electric cooperatives in western Oklahoma incurred more than $6 million in damages to transmission and distribution infrastructure, leaving consumer-members without power, in some cases for a few days, until power could be safely restored. Unfortunately, the implications of wildfires in Oklahoma can be long lasting as those impacted seek a path to recovery. We know Oklahomans are resilient and are no strangers to rising up to meet challenging circumstances, and to help their neighbors in need. Oklahoma’s electric cooperatives across the state are grateful for the opportunity to provide assistance to charitable organizations helping fire victims throughout the state. Our thoughts and prayers go out to local communities recovering from the impact of the wildfires, and to our loyal firefighters and emergency responders for their unwavering service.