Cluster of wildfires burning in Oklahoma -- but no tornadoes in sight

By Susan McFarland

April 20 (UPI) -- Oklahoma firefighters are battling raging wildfires, now entering their second week -- after they've torched more than 400,000 acres, killed two people and hurt 20.

Two deaths have been blamed on the fires, including a woman who died in her car and a 61-year-old man who tried to help firefighters beat back flames.


Thursday's weather allowed for some progress in controlling the fires, but alerts were issued again Friday, the National Weather Service said.

Temperatures were expected in the upper 60s with wind gusts up to 32 mph Friday.

In Dewey County, the Rhea fire is about 15 percent contained. It's burned more than 280,000 acres so far, officials said. In Woodward County, more than 67,000 acres have burned in the 34 Complex fire and a fire in Beaver and Harper counties was 80 percent contained.

The fire weather danger is expected to decrease starting Saturday.

A state of emergency issued by Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin remains in effect for 52 counties and a burn ban is in effect for 36 counties in the western part of the state.


Earlier this week, fire crews battled blazes in Kansas and Colorado, and Arizona and New Mexico were under fire alerts.

The drought facilitating the fires, meanwhile, has also pushed Oklahoma close to a record low for tornadoes this year. In April, Oklahoma typically sees an average of 11 tornadoes. So far, none have formed in 2018. Only two other years -- 1987 and 1988 -- failed to record a tornado in the month.

The record for the latest start to the tornado season is April 26, in 1962, the National Weather Service said.

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