Cause of $1M Okla. Wildfire Undetermined

The fire burned 3,250 acres near Guthrie.


May 14--GUTHRIE -- Investigators from two state agencies say the cause of a massive wildfire that burned roughly 3,250 acres last week is undetermined, according to a report released Tuesday by the state Agriculture, Food and Forestry Department.

A combination of extreme fire behavior and weather conditions at the time the blaze was sparked prevented investigators, led by the state Agriculture Department and the state fire marshal's office, from establishing a specific area of origin, the report states.

The fire is believed to have started about 4 p.m. May 4 in the vicinity of S Pine Street between Forest Hills Road and E Seward Road, said David Ball, emergency management director for Logan County and the city of Guthrie.

The wildfire burned about 51/2 miles to the northeast, staying entirely east of Interstate 35.

And while investigators could not pinpoint exactly where the blaze began, power lines have not been ruled out as a possible cause.

A set of single phase power lines were located within the fire's origin area, with treetops observed in contact with the lower neutral wire and top energized wire. However, the wires were removed and examined by investigators and showed no visible signs of arcing, the report states.

Ignition sources excluded as possible causes following the investigation include: railroad, lightning, mechanical equipment, children, fireworks, smoking, exhaust, debris burn and arson.

Special agent Jerry Flowers, of the state Department of Agriculture, served as the chief investigator in the case.

Damage report

The wildfire is responsible for $944,331 in damage and the destruction of or serious harm to about 60 properties, according to a report released Tuesday by the Logan County assessor's office.

The blaze burned over a three-day period and about 1,000 people were evacuated from their homes.

More than 150 firefighters were treated by Emergency Medical Services Authority medics for injuries caused by heat and smoke. One person, Johnnie Knox, 56, of Guthrie, died in the blaze, said Stan May, spokesman for the state Homeland Security office's Incident Management Team.

The Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief, the Red Cross and the Salvation Army provided volunteer services for residents and emergency crews.

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