Wildfires in northwestern Oklahoma continued to grow overnight, adding miles of damage to an already ravaged area.
A Love County strike team has deployed to western Oklahoma to assist with the wildfires according to Love County Emergency Management. The team consists of firefighters from Criner Hills and Jimtown Volunteer Fire Departments and Lake Murray Village Fire Department. AshLeigh Gillham, director of Love County Emergency Management, said eight personnel were sent Wednesday. Their original destination was surrounded by fire before they arrived, so they were diverted to the Rhea fire staging area in Weatherford. The strike team expects to be in the area through Friday.
Since last week, thousands of acres of land have burned in northwest Oklahoma and the fires are still burning today. In addition to requests for donations for fuel and other supplies, some departments are hosting fundraisers to help fund their efforts.
Criner Hills Volunteer Fire Department had previously planned a cookout and fundraiser to help boost its budget for April 28. Gillham said the local team has been told they will be reimbursed for costs incurred for the current trip, but volunteer departments have limited budgets and may require assistance to maintain operations if the conditions do not improve.
Another major area of concern are livestock and pets. Residents of the affected areas have been able to rescue some livestock, but now have limited hay and feed to sustain them.
“In disasters like this, wildlife are often forgotten,” said Dr. Rod Hall, State Veterinarian and Director of Animal Industry Services. “Rondi Large with WildCare Foundation in Noble reached out to me and asked me to let people know that if they come across wildlife that are injured or orphaned to call her at 405-872-9338 and she will arrange transportation to get the animals to her facility for rehabilitation.”
Those who have needs related to animals, whether domesticated or otherwise, are encouraged to reach out.
“From what we’ve heard from our members, the losses are very catastrophic.  The losses in 2017 fires were terrible, but I feel like the damage from this fire will be worse and there will be a larger number of producers affected,” said Weston Givens, President of the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association. “I do not have any numbers to share concerning losses, and honestly, I don’t expect to have any numbers regarding livestock until the winds subside, the fires are more controlled and (hopefully) moisture moves in over the weekend.  We humbly ask for prayers and continued support to the firemen and all those affected by these devastating fires.”
A relief fund has been established by the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Foundation to help cattlemen who have been affected by on-going wildfires in western Oklahoma. 100 percent of donations will be distributed to ranchers who have been affected by the fires. Funds will be dispersed 90 days after the fire is out. Applications to apply for fire relief funds can be found at www.okcattlemen.org.
Donations for the relief effort may be sent by mail or online. For more information, visit www.okcattlemen.org.
The Rhea fire is currently 283,095 acres, a  34,515-acre increase from Tuesday’s reported acreage said Bryan Painter with Oklahoma Forestry Services. Containment remains at 3 percent, Painter said. Dry, windy weather conditions contributed to significant fire behavior and spread. Most of the growth happened on the northeast side of the fire south of Seiling as strong southwest winds pushed the fire across US Highway 270. Crews reported that within three hours yesterday afternoon, the fire advanced 5 to 8 miles.
The southeast finger of the fire was also active. Approximately six miles north of Thomas on the east side of the Canadian River, crews responded to an approximately 200-acre spot fire and successfully connected it to the main fire. The fire was not active on the southwest side near Leedey, however, it was active on the west and northwest sides near the communities of Camargo and Vici. Approximately four miles northeast of Camargo, the fire made a push westward toward State Highway 34. Dozer operators constructed about three miles of fireline, holding the fire east of the highway.
Firefighters worked through the night, mainly southeast of Seiling along the Highway 270 corridor. Day-shift crews will work around the fire’s perimeter today, protecting structures and working directly on the fireline to extinguish and mopup the fire where it is safe to do so.
The Rhea Fire has affected four counties in western Oklahoma: Blaine, Custer, Dewey, and Woodward. Each county’s sheriff is the local authority who issues evacuation orders.
The governor’s office has issued a burn ban for thirty-six counties in western and central Oklahoma, including the four that are affected by the Rhea Fire. For information on what and what is not allowed, go to following website: https://tinyurl.com/y8ugoqfc.