The Jackson County Wildland Task Force responded to a wild-land fire at North County Road 212 and ECR 151 in Warren, where emergency teams established a command post and set up a multi-agency operation to extinguish a blaze in hot, dry, 101 degree Southwest Oklahoma weather.
The Task Force, comprised of all fire units within Jackson County and Jackson County EMS, was deployed to the scene around 2:45 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 22, to contain the fire from jumping the North Fork of the Red River into Kiowa County. Altus Air Force Base Fire Department and Air Evac Lifeteam assisted with operations. The fire burned along the backside of the river through heavy brush, trees, and sand.
Altus Police Chief Jerry Abbott stated that the biggest hurdle was getting access to the fire due to the complex terrain.
“The fire is doing a lot of crowning across the top of the trees which makes it travel a lot faster, and we just can’t get apparatus where we need it,” Abbott said. “Trying to get trucks to it is the hard part.” Abbott said that there were structures in the area but nothing at immediate risk.
Operations Section Chief Rodney Biddy (Ret. Warren Fire Chief) believes that the blaze could have originated from an old “dump site” where broken glass or tin cans may have been among debris.
“I speculate a piece of glass may have sparked it off,” Biddy said.
All firefighters deployed in the field were volunteers, except for Altus Fire Dept., Jackson County EMS, and AAFB firefighters.
Jackson County EMS quickly set up a rehab station for firefighters returning from the site to check vitals and provide necessary aid. AAFB Fire Department assisted with putting out the fire, rehabbing firefighters, and providing a 4000 gallon tank apparatus with manpower. Altus Emergency Operations Center assisted by providing regular weather updates and requesting aid from the American Red Cross who brought out food and water for firefighters.
“It’s important to get this fire out, but more important to take care of our fire fighters,” explained Phil Beauchamp, Task Force Planning Section Chief, who kept track of equipment and manpower.
Air Evac Lifeteam lifted Jackson County’s Task Force Fire Chief, Jerry Abbott, into the sky for a bird’s eye view of the situation and to coordinate efforts with trucks on the ground. Upon landing, Abbott and other unit commanders held a tactics meeting for further course of action.
Abbott gave an update Saturday morning, stating that although the fired crossed the river 3 to 4 times, it is contained and with some hot spots remaining.
“We tried to get most of our trucks out by dark last night,” Abbott said. “We will continue to patrol the perimeter and watch throughout the day cause weather is not in our favor.”
In total, approximately 50 to 60 firefighters and county workers with heavy equipment responded.
No injuries were reported.