Strong winds made a wildland fire worse Tuesday afternoon as multiple fire crews battled a large conflagration that originated around the Hughes Ranch area.
“It started pretty close to the Hughes Ranch entrance on (State Highway) 123 around 2 or 3 p.m. Then it jumped the road and went south along what is known as Onion Prairie Road,” Washington County Emergency Management Director Kary Cox said Wednesday. “Everything is out for the most part, and the winds have died down. We had just a few crews out overnight doing patrols.”
Cox had warned residents over the weekend that although a governor’s burn ban was lifted last week that bad conditions would continue into this week. As of Wednesday morning, the area along with almost all counties in northeastern Oklahoma was under a “limited to slightly elevated fire weather threat.”
According to the NWS Tulsa the elevated fire weather threat “will persist today as northwest winds at 10 to 15 mph continue with a dry air-mass in place.”
Cox estimated 3,500 to 4,000 acres burned, and nine fire agencies responded to wildfires Tuesday. No structures were lost.
“We had one air tanker drop from the Forestry service and that helped a lot, and a Wildland taskforce from the Quapaw tribe,” Cox said.
The initial response to the fire was somewhat hampered by another fire that crews were already working on, he said.
“There was another fairly large fire on (U.S.) Highway 60 west of Bartlesville that was already going when this one broke out. They were able to get that one under control and move onto the Hughes ranch fire,” he said. “The winds were a major problem too, we were seeing wind gusts up to 40 mph.”
Cox said crews were on the scene until around midnight.
“We do have some smokers and some hot spots today and there is a Forestry Service bulldozer crew that we may let come up and get into some of the rough terrain that we can’t get to,” he said. “There was some heavily wooded areas and some canyons that we couldn’t get to.”
The cause of the fire is unknown, he said.
“We don’t know for sure, but it was probably electrical,” he added.