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Oklahoma Fire is Mostly Contained; Two Oklahoma City Neighborhoods Evacuated

Aired January 1, 2006 - 21:03   ET


BRAD HENRY, GOVERNOR, OKLAHOMA: And I've talked to firefighters today. They're really doing a great job, they're making a difference. They're saving lives and saving property. We will get all available resources, state, federal, and local, to the front lines so that we can most effectively and efficiently fight these fires. We should remember that many of these firefighters are still out there tonight, and they will be fighting these fires throughout the night. And our prayers and thoughts should be with them.
As you know, today has been a very challenging day. We've had high temperatures, low humidity, and high winds, and that causes literally a perfect storm. Albert Ashwood, my director of emergency management, is here with us tonight, and he will give you more details on today's activities. But I want to stress that even though our firefighters and first responders have done a fabulous job fighting these fires, that the danger is not over. Weather conditions are not favorable over the foreseeable future. There is no significant precipitation in sight, and we cannot and will not let our guard down.

With that in mind, tonight I am making a special appeal to all Oklahomans. Please, please exercise extreme caution when dealing with any form of fire or combustible materials. And use common sense. Some fires are indeed created by natural conditions, but most fires are caused by humans. And those are fires that we can and should prevent. Remember, lives and property are literally at stake.

To all those who have been affected by the fires, to the firefighters and first responders on the front lines who have done such a great job, I make this pledge to you -- we will provide every form of assistance available. I'm asking President Bush to expedite approval of a federal emergency declaration. We are currently in contact with the White House. I've talked with Congressman Cole and others in the congressional delegation, and we are asking the president to expedite that process.

Oklahomans are strong. We're a strong people. Oklahomans have faced many challenges and adversities. Oklahomans always overcome those challenges and adversities, and this time will be no different, we will overcome this challenge, we will overcome this adversity, and we will do it with great compassion and dedication and the Oklahoma spirit that the world has come to know.

At this time, I'd like to ask Albert Ashwood to come forward and give you a few more details about the firefighting activities that are occurring all across this state -- Albert. ALBERT ASHWOOD, OK STATE EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: Thank you very much, Governor. All right, it's obvious that we've had very little precipitation since October of this year. Of course, everyone knows that, and frankly, in October we well below normal at that time. We've been working very hard supporting local firefighters, local fire departments across this state. We have 900 volunteer fire departments that are not paid departments that have been working around the clock for the last seven to 10 days. They've been putting out fires statewide.

Today alone we had 20 wildfires that needed resources beyond the local capability. Of course, the state resources that we have been providing have been Chinook helicopters, Blackhawk helicopters that have been provided for the Oklahoma military department. They've done an outstanding job fighting fires across this state. We've also worked all of our coordination to support those local firefighters through the Forestry Division of the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture. They do an outstanding job. They requested compact resources from across the nation. I know teams from Tennessee and Alabama have come in yesterday to support the efforts in pre- positioning and fighting fires that about to happen. We also have teams that we're expecting from Florida and North Carolina that are coming in later tonight.

I can promise you and the governor mentioned this earlier, as far as the presidential emergency declaration, there is absolutely nothing that that provides that is not already being done. We are not waiting on any sort of approval for funding or anything like that, we are calling in all federal resources necessary. We are calling in all our neighbors resources through mutual aid, through neighboring states, to do everything we can to contain these fires. Unfortunately, when you have 40 knot winds moving fires across the prairies of Oklahoma, it's almost impossible to get in front of them and put them out. What we have to do, the firefighters have to protect structures, save families, and move forward.

We have had numerous fires today. I don't need to tell you that. They will continue. The conditions aren't going to change any time soon. Tomorrow, we are looking at a little lower temperatures, a little higher humidity, a little lighter winds. Hopefully that will help some, but then again Tuesday, we're expecting the same thing we did today. I don't know when this will change until we have measurable precipitation, but I can promise you the state of Oklahoma and Governor Henry are going to provide every and all asset, whether it be state, local, or federal to attack these fires. What we have to do now is we have to support the local firefighters. They've been at this for seven to 10 days. We need more manpower, we're bringing it in. We need for equipment. We're bringing it in. We're going to do everything we can to meet the effort, but it's not going to be over any time soon.

HENRY: We'll be happy to address any questions.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) funding needs for some of these sponsored fire departments (UNINTELLIGIBLE). What's your view on that? Do you think a special session is need for addressing these funding issues?

HENRY: Well, I don't know any reason at this particular time that a special session is needed. We are putting every resource available, every resource at our fingertips into this effort, and we will continue to do so if we get to a point where we believe that a special session is necessary, then I won't hesitate to call one, but at this time it's just not necessary.

QUESTION: Governor, we may have noticed, I know we have always dealt with volunteer firefighters in the state of Oklahoma; it has become even more obvious in the last several months that we have dealt with wildfires that these departments need help. So what can be done in the upcoming legislative session, and I don't know that there's anything that can be done now, to try to help these people?

HENRY: Well, I think clearly in the upcoming legislative session, we need to have a very detailed discussion about providing more resources to our volunteer fire departments out there, in particularly in the rural areas, that's where they have the most problems. But as I said, right now we are providing a steady stream of funding to them. We're providing every resource that we possibly can. And we've been pre-positioning resources since Friday. We knew that Sunday was going to be a bad day. We know, also, that Tuesday will be another very, very and extremely high fire danger day, with high temperatures and high winds and low humidity. So we're trying to pre-position those resources. We've called in firefighting teams from other states, and we've had 14 states respond. Four have arrived, and they are assisting. We've called in all of the federal resources that we can. We've put our state air and Army National Guard resources into this effort, our forestry division, through the Department of Agriculture Resources. So, we're doing all that we really can right now. But certainly in the future, this ought to be a wake-up call that we need to provide better funding for our rural and volunteer fire departments.

QUESTION: Do you have enough helicopters (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

HENRY: Well, we can always use more helicopters. Let me, let me let Albert address that, because he knows more details.

ASHWOOD: Absolutely. You know, in the past we have received help from Texas for helicopters, but unfortunately Texas is in the exact same situation we're in right now. It's not just the helicopters, it's not just the buckets, you have to have the trained crew that can go up and do the bucket delivery on the fires.

And, frankly, when the winds are this high, when they get up to 40 and 50 mile-an-hour gusts, you can't take the helicopters up, anyway, because it's just extremely dangerous and helicopters can't fly after dark because you can't fly with bucket hanging and low-lying power lines and things like that.

So, there are limitations. I remember in the first day when we were talking about this last Tuesday, questions, where: Why weren't the Chinooks up, why weren't the Blackhawks up? Well, we had 50 mile- per-hour gusts, and that's just -- that's beyond the capability at that time.

QUESTION: How many helicopters, the Chinooks and Blackhawks (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

ASHWOOD: Two Blackhawks in Tulsa, we also have two Chinooks that are in Lexington. That's in addition to the two tankers that are working out of the Fort Smith U.S. Forest Service base that are dropping retardant on the fires as well as the small single engine tankers that are utilized through the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

QUESTION: Do you have any idea at this point in time how many structures we've lost statewide?

ASHWOOD: The best numbers that we have right now are somewhere between 150 and 200 homes, the out buildings would double or triple that, and that's since November 1, that's not just in the last few days, but since November 1.

What we have to do as far as assistance to the victims, is first assess the situation. We're going to have to go out and we're going to have to figure out how many people actually need assistance, how many were uninsured, how many were underinsured and what kind of assistance that they actually need. We're counting on our volunteer agencies, the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the usual agencies that are out there helping after disasters to make sure the immediate needs of these families are met: Housing, food, clothes on their back and then we'll look at the long-term recovery needs to help them out.

QUESTION: Do you have any idea how many acres have been burned?

ASHWOOD: From the Department of Agriculture they told me over yesterday over a quarter of a million acres of Oklahoma have been burned since November 1.

QUESTION: That doesn't include today.

ASHWOOD: That does not include today.

QUESTION: In light of that quarter of a million figure, I know we've had farmers talking about farm ponds going dry.


QUESTION: We are now going to start facing a situation where farmers are losing the hay they would normally use if, it does get cold again, to feed animals. Are we also looking at disaster relief for the farmers?

ASHWOOD: Absolutely, and I know Secretary Peach with the Department of Agriculture, has talked to the governor and myself, also, about that situation. We need to look at it. I know many of you saw hay programs several years ago. There were a lot of problems with that program, so we need to do what's best for the farmer and see what we can do to help them. QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) rain, but it looks like the forecast for the next week, there is no rain, so the firefighters who are worn out (UNINTELLIGIBLE) how long (UNINTELLIGIBLE). You want to try and do as much as you can, but there's a point -- is there a breaking point?

ASHWOOD: No, it's going to go on as long as it takes. We're going to make sure that we do everything we can. I mean, there is no breaking point, there is no ending point. I mean, this, too, will pass hopefully sooner than later.

QUESTION: How many firefighters, so far? You said four states so far have -- 14 states responded but you have, you know...

ASHWOOD: We have four teams -- four states that have brought teams in. We're getting 14 teams in this initial shift that's bringing -- brought forward.

QUESTION: As far as personnel numbers -- numbers of personnel, do you have any idea how many?

ASHWOOD: I would have to check with the operations center on that, because it is a bit fluid on how many people the different states bring in with each team.

QUESTION: Do you have any idea how many firefighters (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

ASHWOOD: I would -- I think a better question, how many are not, because I think just basically every department in the state has been working fires or some fires for the last week to 10 days.

QUESTION: The government mentioned that a lot of these fires are caused by humans. Are we talking about carelessness, negligence, arson?

ASHWOOD: Here again, probably all of the above. I don't know. I know that carelessness will be a lot of it. We live in a rural state, a lot of people burn trash in their backyard because they don't have trash pickup. That might be part of it. We have a lot of people that might through out a cigarette butt out of their window drivering while they're driving by. That's part of it. I don't have an exact answer, but it's probably, my guess, all of the above.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) possible carelessness, is there any kind of a push towards public service announcements, some kind of an education to our people, saying, don't do this?

ASHWOOD: Oh, I know the governor has been doing that since we started, you know, this last week, and that continues. Preparedness begins at home, I mean, public service announcements are great. We need to get the information out there, but my question to you, is are you prepared at your house? Because that's where it starts. Have you got your leaves away from your home? Have you cut your grass low? Have you moved your firewood away from the house? These things that are common sense things, but we can't just say as a blanket, everybody needs to do this. We need it do it ourself first.

QUESTION: OK, today we noticed large amounts of fire in a direct metropolitan area, the one had a Memorial in Penn as example, a high- business area, high population area, that we hadn't seen before, really. They had been in rural areas moving through fields and pastures. Is that the bigger danger we're facing right now?

ASHWOOD: I think it's probably a bigger danger because there's more to damage, there's more to destroy, at the same time there are more resources. Oklahoma City Fire Department has a very large fire department, they have a lot of resources right there on the scene, and we can support them, but at the same time, they can do most of it themselves. So that there's a good and bad to that. Yes, a lot more to damage, because of the commercial district there, but at the same time, you have a lot more resources to put it out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A couple more and we may need to wrap (ph).

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a presidential declaration is approved, what kind of assistance (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

HENRY: Well, first of all, temporary housing is a big part of the -- the federal emergency declaration. There are those who will need temporary housing assistance. We've also -- we're also asking for churches to organize relief efforts, and the Red Cross, of course, will be involve and other charitable organizations. Albert what other kinds of relief? I know we have...

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, we are listening to Governor Brad Henry of Oklahoma, and there is Albert Ashwood of the Emergency Management Agency in Oklahoma. The news out of this news conference right now is that four states are going to be contributing fire fighting teams to the situation in Oklahoma City.

The governor is on the telephone earlier -- was on the telephone earlier with the White House asking for an expedited declaration of emergency in Oklahoma, but the state is not waiting for that official declaration, they are moving ahead, spending resources, getting firefighters, more firefighters on the line there. We are going to give you complete coverage of this fire and the situation across two states, where fires are burning, tonight at 10:00.

I'm Carol Lin reporting from the CNN Center.


LIN: Welcome back to our continuing live coverage of the fires in Oklahoma City. I'm Carol Lin. We just heard from the governor of Oklahoma, who says that the dry conditions and the hot temperatures have created a perfect storm, a firestorm.

You were looking at videotape of the fires burning right up until this point, virtually out of control in an Oklahoma City neighborhood about 10 miles from downtown Oklahoma City. We have just learned from the "Associated Press" that the Oklahoma City firefighters have that fire contained. They have been working for the last two hours to make that happen.

In the meantime, the governor said he been on the phone with the White House, trying to get President Bush to expedite an emergency declaration for the state of Oklahoma, to release funds that would pay for the extra firefighters that are desperately needed. In the meantime, the emergency management director of Oklahoma says they're not waiting for that declaration, they are going ahead and getting several teams of firefighters from four different states, including Florida and North Carolina. Those firefighters are on their way.

They are saying that the 40 to 50 mile-per-hour winds are making it virtually impossible to get water dropping helicopters up to douse these flames that are quickly spreading from the prairies now in to the city of Oklahoma. They're saying now also between 150 and 200 homes have burned down since November -- since November, actually, the beginning of November, when some of these fires started spotting out. There's been a drought in Oklahoma the last six months. Virtually no water to speak of, and no moisture in sight in the forecast.

I've got with me on the telephone Alex Cameron a reporter with KWTV in Oklahoma City.

Alex, what do you know about the situation on the ground at that neighborhood where the houses were on fire?

ALEX CAMERON, KWTV REPORTER: Well, Carol, I am not in that neighborhood right now, let me point that out first of all, but what I can tell you is that that is an area that is in the city limits of Oklahoma City, but it's on the eastern edge of the city, and it is fairly rural there. There are still plenty of homes, and we've seen some of the homes burn down. But fortunately, the way the winds are blowing, they're blowing out of the city and into a more rural area. Not to say there aren't more homes potentially at risk, there certainly are. But the fighters, as you just mentioned, have apparently done a good job of containing the fire to that area, so it certainly looks like they're going to be able keep it from getting into a more heavily populated area.

LIN: In listening to the news conference with the governor and Albert Ashwood of the emergency management agency, looks like the government go flak for not getting the helicopters up sooner, earlier in the -- last week when the fire started to spread?

CAMERON: Well that's, you know, that's been a concern, but they also pointed out what's been a basic truth, is that the winds have been so high, and when the winds are that high, it is dangerous for those Chinook helicopters to fly. So on the days when the winds were down, we did see the Chinook up there, and it's been a great help. You know, I'm sure we'd have like to seen more of those out, helping and perhaps now we'll get them, but the conditions have been very bad and of course, as Mr. Ashwood mentioned, at nighttime, after nightfall, those helicopters can't fly anyway, since they've got buckets hanging down.

LIN: Right, the governor also issuing a special appeal to people in Oklahoma, saying that the weather conditions are not going to improve. That the situation remains extremely dangerous and that he was, you know, gosh, Alex, he sounded like he was begging people to use extreme caution and that lives and property are at stake -- has -- go ahead.

CAMERON: Well, they definitely are, and I can tell you that -- I think people are starting to get the picture, here. But it is a very rural state, and you heard Mr. Ashwood say what people need to do, start making preparations in their homes, and that's true, but it's very tough a lot of places, they're out in the woods and what do you do? Go and cut down the trees around your house? Now, that's a difficult thing to do. I mean, if you live, you know, in the city, in a neighborhood, you can cut your grass low, but the chances are the fire is not going to get to you anyway. So out in the rural areas it's a lot more difficult to create a fire break around your house, which is essential what he's asking citizens to do. You go out and see a lot of people watering down their yards and a lot of folks are doing that, but that only helps up to a point.

LIN: So, do you get the feeling that people are pretty satisfied with the way the state has been handling this fire situation, the fire emergency?

CAMERON: Well, you know, I have to say I think so. I mean, from everything I can -- I have seen, what most people would notice is the hard work of the firefighters. Then -- whether they're the paid department, like Oklahoma City, or the rural volunteer departments. They've all been out there, every day, and the rural guys, they don't get days off. You know, they don't have a shift to take their place.

They go out there day after day, and a lot of times, they're trying to save their neighbor's home. They live in those communities, so they are giving it their all, and we've seen citizens out there becoming firefighters. I mean, we talked to some guys tonight who were at church and heard about a fire (UNINTELLIGIBLE) kid's aunts out and they all went in their church clothes with shovels trying to put out these fires.

So, you got people coming together, doing what they can, but the fact is, the conditions have just been terrible, and we're at the whim of Mother Nature right now. And it doesn't look very good. The -- you know, you hope the winds will die down tonight and temperatures may come down tomorrow, but it looks like Tuesday it's going to be another bad day here.

LIN: Well, well...

CAMERON: We need rain.

LIN: Were people surprised that fire reached the city?

CAMERON: I don't think so. I mean, we had a couple of those break out, and that's happened in the past. I've been covering grass fires here, you know, been reporting here for 10 years, so it's not the first time we've seen grass fires within the city limits, but it definitely was a little shocking to see how large that one was. I've never seen a grass fire that large, and, in fact, I mean this week of grass fires is like nothing I've ever seen, and we've certainly seen plenty of grass fires.

LIN: Well one...

CAMERON: It was like -- go ahead.

LIN: Well, one report had -- one report had that fire that hit that neighborhood as being a mile wide.

CAMERON: Oh, no doubt. I mean, some of these grass fires have been several miles wide. You know, once they get started, they start going out in all directions and then aided an abetted by the wind, and they travel very quickly. And it cover -- they can cover a few miles, you know, in, you know, 15 minutes. Depending on how the wind is blowing. So, yeah, one mile would be, wouldn't be a big deal, to be honest with you.

LIN: Alex, aren't you amazed that nobody was hurt in today's fires?

CAMERON: It is amazing, it really is. And just -- I know it's -- you know, it's horrible to say, well, we've had just one fatality. You know, one fatality is too much, but in these five days of intense fires, we've had just injuries, we've had some injuries, but I think it's just that people are obviously very aware of the situation, and so they're paying attention. You know, they're looking to the skies to see if there's smoke nearby and when they see it, they're getting out. And the police have been doing their job, too. The neighborhood where I am right now, police were coming through and telling people to evacuate. Not everybody did, but you know, they're at least making sure everybody knows what's going on.

LIN: How close are you to the fire that we're -- videotape that we're watching on air, right now.

CAMERON: Well, I'm probably about 20 miles, no, maybe 15 mile to the north where there was a very significant outbreak of wildfires earlier today in Guthrie, Oklahoma.

So I'm not right on top of the one you're seeing video of but I can tell you what we experienced out here earlier today was almost as bad, and certainly as tragic, as we saw a number of homes go up in flames here.

LIN: Uh-huh. Oh. How quickly did the fire come upon that neighborhood?

CAMERON: Oh, it's just -- well, let me tell you a little story here real quick.

LIN: Sure.

CAMERON: This is a fairly new neighborhood. They're, you know, a bunch of nice, new homes here. On one side of the street about 2:00 this afternoon, a guy, older resident, sees smoke coming over the trees and immediately gets his garden hose. He and his wife, they start watering down their yard and are able to save their house. You can see where the flames crept right up to their front door.

Right across the street, another guy comes out at the same time. Sees the smoke, and he has a brother-in-law, who lives in the neighborhood. He goes and runs over to his brother-in-law's house to try and help them, because theoretically, that house was more than likely to go up, because it was closer to the fire. He starts helping watering down their house.

In the meantime, looks back and notices thick black smoke comes from the area where he thinks his house is. Comes running back over here, and sure enough, in that short period of time, about 45 minutes, somehow the flames leapt over and caught his house on fire and he gets back here and it's completely lost.

LIN: Oh, no.

CAMERON: So it's, you know, it's -- it's hard to explain. Sometimes it's just a -- a garden hose is enough to save your house. But who is to say, even he had been there with the hose trying to keep his house wet, it might not have saved it. Anyway, he's completely out of everything tonight. He's homeless.

LIN: Something utterly by chance. So, you know, when you see people who are refusing to evacuate after they have been warned that the fire may be on them within a matter of minutes, what guess through your mind?

CAMERON: Well, you know, like the guy I talked to here; he said, you know, we're elderly. I'm retired. I can't afford to see this house burn down. That's the thinking. If I evacuate, which they're telling me to do I can't do anything to protect my house.

Because as many firefighters as there are out here, they can't possibly cover all the ground there is. And they may save some houses, but they're obviously not able to save them all. You heard the numbers. So that was the thinking of some of the folks we talked to. They told us to evacuate, but I'm not going anywhere.

LIN: Right.

CAMERON: You know, it's this kind of mindset you hear when they tell you -- you know, the folks in Florida, when a hurricane's coming.

LIN: Sure. Absolutely.

CAMERON: It's not going to happen to mow and I'm getting out here to do what I can to protect my property.

Right. It's everything. Everything you got.

CAMERON: Exactly.

LIN: Alex Cameron, thank you so much. Great talking to you.

CAMERON: My pleasure, Carol. LIN: Great hearing your stories and sharing your experience out there right on the lines with these people who are trying to save their homes. The firefighters who are risking their lives to try to keep their community safe.

Once again, the situation in Oklahoma City is the neighborhood fire that we have been showing you for the last two hours is contained. They were able to stop it in its tracks, but tomorrow is another day. A very dry, dangerous condition right there in Oklahoma City.

More continuing BREAKNG NEWS coverage right after this.


LIN: Welcome back to our continuing coverage as we are watching the fires in Oklahoma City. These grass fires which have now reached the urban areas of that city.

The latest report is that the fire we have been watching in this neighborhood near Sooner Road, is contained. It's still burning, but it has been contained, which means firefighters are able to hold the line to keep this fire from spreading tonight.

Now, just -- just a short time ago, we heard from the governor himself, Governor Brad Henry, who was talking about how important it was for people to remain aware that the situation is very dangerous throughout. They've got to be careful. This is what he had to say.


GOV. BRAD HENRY, OKLAHOMA: That the danger is not over. Weather conditions are not favorable over the foreseeable future. There is no significant precipitation in sight, and we cannot, and will not, let our guard down.

With that in mind, tonight I am making a special appeal to all Oklahomans. Please, please, exercise extreme caution when dealing with any form of fire or combustible material, and use common sense. Some fires are indeed created by natural conditions, but most fires are caused by humans. And those are fires that we can and should prevent.

To all those who have been affected by the fires, to the firefighters and first responders on the front lines, who have done such a great job, I make this pledge to you. We will provide every form of assistance available. I'm asking President Bush to expedite approval of a federal emergency declaration.

We are currently in contact with the White House. I talked with Congressman Cole and others in the congressional delegation, and we are asking the president to expedite that process.


LIN: All right. Expediting that process means that teams of firefighters will be coming from four different states, including North Carolina and Florida, to help fight these wildfires that are now penetrating Oklahoma City itself.

With me on the telephone right now is Mason Dunn. He is the helicopter pilot for KWTW.

Mason, it had to be a relief to hear the governor go out and just tell people, listen, such a dangerous situation. What you're looking at on our screen right now on live television could happen to you in your neighborhood if you're not careful?

MASON DUNN, KWTW NEWS, HELICOPTER PILOT: Yeah, Carol. Can you hear me?

LIN: I can. I can.


LIN: What is the situation on the ground right now is that fire contained?

DUNN: Well, right now I'm up at 2,100 feet. This fire is not contained. This fire is near the town of Pregg (ph), between Pregg (ph) and Midway, Highway 377. This is about 20 miles east of the metro, where we were earlier.

This fire is still raging out of control, as you can see, and this is not the only one. We have another one in McCloud and another that I can see off in the distance. I can see a large glow to the north of me in the town of Chandler there, Carol.

LIN: Mason, just when we were talking about one fire in that neighborhood about 10 miles from downtown Oklahoma City, you've got these two major fires burning that you're looking at right now. Tell us a little more detail of what you see. What kind of an area is this?

DUNN: Well, we, of course, just arrive here. It's been dark for quite a while now. The area -- the fire that we covered in the metro burned four houses to the ground. It was just in a mile section there. Oklahoma City Fire Department did a good job of getting a handle on that and stopping it at Sooner Road.

We're now out of Pregg (ph), which is kind of a rural area. I cannot see if there any homes that this fire is actually moving towards the home. It has just jumped a road here, right there at the head of the fire. You can see the embers -- right there on your screen.

LIN: Right.

DUNN: That fire has just jumped the road and there is a house, if I can Dave Young, my photog, to pan a little bit to the left. A little bit to the left, that is a house right there, so --

LIN: All right, but you have all those vehicles, aren't those fire vehicles?

DUNN: Yeah. They're running to that house, trying to evacuate that house right now, Carol.

LIN: Are you saying there may be people in that house right now, and they waited this long to get them out?

DUNN: Well, we just arrived here, in Pregg (ph), so it would not surprise me if they're out with a water hose or something trying to save their house, save their cattle. They try to save their hay that they have. They try to save everything, as a matter of fact.

We talked to a lady earlier that had loaded a bunch of her furniture and stuff on a truck, and had left. So as you could see, that fire -- right now, I'm in a hover, doing zero miles an hour on my GPS, and I have a 25 knot head wind.

LIN: Wow.

DUNN: We still have winds at 25 knots out of the west, here, from the west it the east here.

LIN: Hey, Mason, how populated is that area that we're looking at?

DUNN: I don't think this is a very populated area. You may have houses spread out on 50 acres, maybe more. Like I said, it's dark out here. All I can see is what I can see from the flames.

LIN: Right.

DUNN: And every now and then I'll use my spotlight to get down low. Right now, I can see this fire is raging towards that house, that you can see right there, Carol.

LIN: Right. As we look at this, I mean, this dramatic situation unfolding right before our very eyes, you know, we consider what was happening in that neighborhood near Sooner Road, and how firefighters were able to contain that one. They got it surrounded. They're saying they can keep it from spreading, but look what's happening all around.

DUNN: That's right. They may have had his fire contained earlier. The winds were out of the southeast at about 40, 45 miles an hour. We did have a cold front go through, some kind of wind shift come through. Now the winds are 25 to 30 out of the west. Where they did not have the fires contained, they took off. As you can see right here. You see a house right there, and a fire is quickly approaching if the west there, Carol.

LIN: All right. Yeah. That is so sad. Let's hope those people got out.

Mason Dunn, thank you very much. These live pictures as these fires are moving in on two different houses there in the Pregg (ph)- Midway area.

Fires are still burning around Oklahoma City. Fires are burning inside of Oklahoma City now. We are in BREAKING NEWS coverage here at CNN's World Headquarters. We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LIN: Good evening. I'm Carol Lin at the CNN Center situation now where a couple more fires are flaring up around Oklahoma City, in the Pregg (ph) and Midway area.

We were just watching as flames were about to overcome yet another house, but it is a rural area, relatively unpopulated. But if you look closely on your screen, you can see the headlights from various firefighter vehicles, as they move through this neighborhood trying to evacuate people, as well as other firefighters, trying to hold the line.

These grass fires are on the move. They actually went into Oklahoma City and started burning down a few houses in a neighborhood just 10 miles from the state capitol. With me on the telephone now is Jennifer Jantzen; she is with the station KOKH.

Jennifer, you were in Guthrie, where the fires started up pretty badly this afternoon. How's it going out there?

JENNIFER JANTZEN, REPORTER, KOKH: Carol, things are really calm right now. There are still a few places where smaller fires are popping up. Fire crews are still out here. I've seen about 15 or 20 fire trucks in the last few hours coming and going from here.

Right now, they seem to have the situation pretty much under control aside from a few smaller fires that are still popping up.

LIN: What are firefighters telling you about the danger of that fire re-igniting? Because that's what we're watching, right now, out in Pregg (ph). This fire may have been controlled at one -- or at least contained, at one point -- and it's now flaring up and burning down houses?

JANTZEN: They're definitely saying there's still a danger as long as these dry conditions and the wind -- which the wind is playing a huge factor along with the dry conditions and neither seem to be going away.

The Guthrie public information officer is currently battling the fire along with his other crews, because it's gotten out of hand. But I have been able to speak with some Guthrie police officers who have been in contact with the fire department. And they say that -- I mean, they're just -- they're just scared to death and fighting, fighting, fighting, trying to keep these areas protected and to keep the flames from re-igniting. As long as this wind and dry conditions -- they're going to keep re-igniting.

LIN: Any homes burn down there?

JANTZEN: Right now we know of one trailer home that did burn down in a neighborhood (AUDIO GAP) from Cedar Valley Golf Course, about 15 to 20 miles north of Oklahoma City. In Guthrie, right now, one trailer home, and we know there are several other homes that are in possible danger if any of these fires were to re-ignite severely. LIN: What about injuries?

JANTZEN: None at this point, reported. But, again, like I said, the public information officer has been pretty unavailable this afternoon. No injuries we know of and no animals, at this point, that we know of that have been hurt, cattle, livestock, anything like that.

LIN: Good. For people who did have to evacuate, that's good for them know.


LIN: In case they're looking for their cattle or their pets. That's got to be some relief for them, where ever they may be.

JANTZEN: Definitely. And --

LIN: Go ahead.

JANTZEN: Definitely some relief. And the firefighters also are relieved and have just been working overtime. As you heard Governor Henry say moments ago, just been working overtime and doing an excellent job protecting the people here in Oklahoma.

LIN: Jennifer Jantzen, KOKH, in Guthrie Oklahoma. Thank you very much.

JANTZEN: Thank you.

LIN: All right. We are watching the situation very closely, as two more fires have flared up outside of Oklahoma City. We're waiting to see where these flames go, but we just watching as the fire was moving towards what we think was a farmhouse, out in the Pregg (ph) area. Much more BREAKING NEWS coverage right after this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And they were ready for it to move towards then, and they could attack it then from the front. It never got to that point in the time we have been here.

Instead, it has kind of hovered in that area where you see the yellow glow at now. There are a number of firefighters from this area assembled here.

See, now you can see it kicking up a little bit again, that is because the wind kicked up.

Anyway, a lot of firefighters from a variety of cities around here. We've actually seen some that have come all the way up here from the village. And they are all standby, trying to get the fire under control. We've also taken the time, since we broke down, to travel among some of the county roads around here.

A number of people are out around their houses trying to dig some kind of ditch, some kind of break around their houses. Either that or they are stationed there, almost waiting for the fire to come to them. And that is because in the areas where the fire has already come across, from Highway 33 and Highway 74, over to the east, that area; while it's out, there are still a lot of embers and a lot of smoke and a lot of trees and brush that continue to burn.

So firefighters are concentrating on that but it also has homeowners attention, Tyler.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kevin, while I have you there, let's talk about one of interesting aspects, and the most dangerous aspect about that particular fire. We discussed the dangers posed here in the metro, with businesses and heavily traveled intersections here in Oklahoma City and Edmund. But up there you had mentioned Huntington Energy has a number of wells and systems in the area and you felt -- and saw rather than heard -- what you interpreted to be explosions there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah. We're kind of unclear on exactly what went up. The area is full of forest upon forests of cedar pines and the ambulance, paramedics explained to us earlier in the day that once the fire reaches those, because they're so dry and so parched they instantly ignite. So you see something and you think maybe it was one of those pine, but then there are a number of oil derricks in the area here.


LIN: All right. We're watching our affiliate coverage, KOCO, as they are on the scenes of these fires that are now breaking out, once again, around Oklahoma City. Mason Dunn with KWTW, he's a helicopter pilot there, and he is over the scene of a fire.

Are you still over Pregg (ph)?

DUNN: Yes, ma'am. We're still over Pregg, watching this fire surround this house at this time, Carol.

LIN: Mason, you were saying it's possible that this fire may have been contained earlier, but flared up again?

DUNN: That's a possibility. Like I said, we had a wind shift come through here and I happen to be on the fire in Cimarron City, out by the Cimarron River, and we saw the wind shift come through and these fires took off again, raging out of control.

As you can see this one approaching this structure here, what you're looking at is on the south side. If we could pan over just to the right. David Young my photog has been with me all day. I say all day, this is my second photog. My first one got sick because it's so rough up here.

But this fire is quickly surrounding this house. They have a brush properties down there and are quickly losing control around this home right here.

LIN: Mason, try to get your photographer to focus in on the fire that you're talking about. Is it right now in the lower, center part of our screen, I think? He's pushing in?

DUNN: Yes, he is going to zoom in on this house, right here, there is fire on both sides. There are two trucks, at least, parked in the front. What they did when you were watching earlier, sent a brush pumper to the back and put out the fire in the back. The fire traveled so quickly that it has become on both sides now, and it looks like they're trying to put it out there. That's the north side of the house.

We're on the north side looking south. So it's generating a lot of smoke, and we're sitting here in a hover at 2,000 feet and you're watching it live, here, Carol.

LIN: You can see by the direction of the smoke that the winds are still blowing pretty hard?

DUNN: I'm sitting here in a hover. Got zero air speed indicated on GPS and I have 30 knots indicated on my air speed indicator. That means I have about a 30-knot headwind. I'm pointed directly to the west right now, on the south side of the fire -- sorry, on the north side of the fire looking north.

So hopefully, it looks like they got two or three brush pumpers, hopefully they're going to get it out of this fire. If you pan up to the left there, Dave, it is approaching another structure.

You can zoom in on that right there. We have another structure, you can see there, that this fire is quickly making his way to -- it has gone a football-field length in the last two minutes, as you've been watching it, Carol.

LIN: Mason, but I don't see anybody on the fire line itself. Is the thought that they can't save this structure, they're just trying to get ahead of those flames?

DUNN: What they'll do is, is they'll send, like you said, brush pumpers, out ahead of the fire, and at a structure. I can see somebody walking, a cow or something. It looks like a person out there.

LIN: A person?

DUNN: So --

LIN: Right there, right there, to the left now.

DUNN: Right through those structures.

LIN: Right in the middle.

DUNN: Trying to save the structure, but the fire has quickly passed that structure, and it is now approaching other structures.

LIN: Who is has? Was that a firefighter?

DUNN: I'm not sure, Carol. There's somebody walking around down there. LIN: Who else would be walking around down there?

DUNN: Like I said, there's a lot of smoke and a lot of fire. So it could be somebody evacuating a house over there, too.

LIN: Oh, Mason. It's got to be a desperate situation there.

You were saying just a short time ago as this wall of flames was approaching that house, we watching as some vehicles. Their headlight were approaching there, that people might just be getting evacuated.

DUNN: Well, that's a good possibility. You know, we try to tell people out here to evacuate your homes. If you can see the smoke, you need to evacuate your homes, but you know -- on the other hand, I can't blame them for trying to save their home and everything in it.

Of course, their livestock, their horses. I've seen dogs out here trapped by the fire. And, you know, we've had one person that's been killed trying to fight the fire to save their home out there.

LIN: Hmm. So this fire, what direction is it moving and what is it heading towards?

DUNN: Right now we're hovering pretty much in the dark. I'm up at 2,200 feet now, like I said, on the north side looking south. And I really can't tell what you it's approaching until the fire gets up to a structure, and then I can see a structure in there. So, you know, like I said, fighting these fires at night, I don't know if that's good or bad.

LIN: Well, I think it's pretty bad given that these firefighters would really like to have some of those water-dropping helicopters out. And they simply can't go out in the dark because of all the low- lying power lines and trees, there's no way for them to know where they're aiming or what they might hit.

DUNN: There were some Chinooks and Black Hawks that were out dropping water earlier today, you know. I wouldn't fly one at night. Now, you know, the high winds, carrying 800 pounds of water on a swing down there, 50 foot, you know, can you not fly those at night -- or in high winds. You just can't do it.

We can fly our news helicopters in pretty high wind, we're used to doing that. We do storm chasing in these helicopters, where we fly next to tornados. I have a lot of experience, flying in high winds. So it doesn't make me very uncomfortable to fly in conditions like this.

LIN: No, but you don't have a 500-pound water dropping bucket underneath you that you've got to control.

DUNN: That's right. That's right. I would not fly in the high winds and especially at night with a 50-foot swing on bottom of my helicopter, though. There's no way. There's no way those guys can do that. I can guarantee you, those guise are sitting at home cringing because they want to be out here fighting the fire. They just can't. LIN: Mason Dunn, thank you so much. The helicopter pilot for KWTW, as we're watching a fire burning in Pregg (ph). As the flames are heading towards a house. And fire vehicles are down on the ground, perhaps trying to evacuate people in that house who might have been defending their home against these flames.

Much more news coming up. We're in BREAKING NEWS mode, right here at CNN.



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