MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Oklahoma News

May 7, 2014

Investigation ongoing into deadly wildfire

A state agency investigating where and how the Logan County wildfire started is awaiting all the facts before releasing its findings, a spokeswoman said.

The Logan County wildfire, which has charred 3,000-3,500 acres, burned more than 10 occupied homes and killed a 56-year-old resident, who has yet to be identified.

Guthrie Fire Chief Eric Harlow has said that at about 4 p.m. Sunday the fire began as a controlled burn that got out of control due to weather conditions — low humidity, hot temperatures and brisk winds.

Oklahoma Forestry Services, a division of the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, is investigating where and how the fire originated, said agency spokeswoman Kirby Smith.

 Smith said the agency will not formally comment on its findings until all the facts have been gathered. Smith said plans call for the information to be turned over to the top incident commander, a responsibility that has rotated between different individuals during fire suppression operations.

Tuesday afternoon, Smith said the investigation may take a couple of days to complete. Oklahoma Forestry Services law enforcement covers two areas of investigation — arson and timber theft. Normally, evidence they gather is turned over to a county district attorney.

The state fire marshal’s office is investigating the fatality, said Sam Schafnitt, the agency’s chief operations officer. Specifically, it has determined that the fire started on the outside of the structure and then progressed to the interior, Schafnitt said.

Additionally, the office is awaiting the report from the state medical examiner’s office on cause of death, Schafnitt said.

On Monday, Amy Elliott, spokeswoman for the state medical examiner’s office, confirmed the agency had received the victim’s body. As of Tuesday morning, cause of death had not been determined, Elliott said.

Meanwhile, crews continued to respond to hot areas Tuesday afternoon in Logan County, but the bulk of the flames have been extinguished after almost three days of fighting the wildfire.

Mark Schlachtenhaufen writes for The Edmond Sun.

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