Red flag warning in effect as dry conditions persist

SEILING, Okla. — A red flag warning is effect until midnight, forestry officials announced Tuesday.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food,and Forestry Services, the affected areas and extreme conditions will exist near and west of a line from Alfalfa County to Cotton County.

“New fires will likely exhibit explosive rapid rates of spread,” a press release from forestry officials states. "Ongoing fires will require extensive patrol and mop up to prevent escape."

As of Tuesday morning, an ongoing fire near Rhea has burned more than 248,000 acres. Hot spots near Seiling quickly engulfed trees and land in the path of flames.

Rhonda Berry, who lives about two miles from the big flames, recalled one fire in 2009, but she said it was not nearly as intense as what she saw Tuesday.

Berry, who has set up sprinklers near her home for the time being, said she and her family are lucky to still have a home. Their house has been in the path of the recent wildfires.

“The fire came back over this backside of the house and just burned straight from the back, jumped over the house, and burned the yard, and went that way so we’ve had all of our pasture land burned off five days ago,” Berry said.

Forest officials also said wild land fuels in western Oklahoma remain critically dry. They are warning firefighters the chance for any ember or spark to start a fire on Tuesday is 100 percent.

“When we get into these type of conditions, a vehicle that pulled off into the grass can start it,” said Sheriff Clay Sander of the Dewey County Sheriff’s Office. "You get the wind with the power lines and a little spark can start it, even something as small as a chain dragging along the side of a vehicle."

Sander is serving as a local Incident commander for the Rhea fire. He said, while fire crews work around the clock, residents need to stay extra attentive.

“Our goal in this has been to save lives first, save homes second and then work on containment but, as fast it’s moving... we’re hopeful we can save lives and houses but that also plays into people being aware of their conditions,” Sander said.

The town of Seiling is currently not under evacuation, but Sander said, if people want to take precaution and get out of town, he would recommend it.