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Oklahoma wildfires burn 40 homes

Authorities looking for two people in connection with the fires

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DUNCAN, Oklahoma (CNN) -- Firefighters early Thursday were able to contain a rash of wildfires that charred as much as 8,000 acres of grasslands and destroyed up to 40 homes across southern Oklahoma.

"Overnight, the crews spent time mopping up hotspots and dousing out heavy rekindles, and that's kind of what's going on here today," fire spokesman Sam Darst told CNN.

Nearly all of the 500 people who evacuated from Duncan, the nearby town of Meridian and the surrounding countryside have returned to their homes, authorities said.

In addition to the homes destroyed, the fires also consumed at least one church building, Darst said. (Watch areas of Oklahoma go up in flames -- 3:44)

Two people are being sought in connection with the fires, Darst said. He told CNN earlier that one of those people was in custody, but later said he had made a mistake.

Shifting winds gusting over 40 mph and temperatures in the 90-degree range helped the fires spread.

Oklahoma City posted a record high of 91 degrees Wednesday and has been experiencing the second-driest six-month period since 1917, according to the National Weather Service. The state received only a quarter-inch of rain between late October and January.

Such factors produced a "perfect storm situation," Darst said.

Later Wednesday, a cold front lowered temperatures and raised humidity, improving conditions for firefighters.

Although more fires were reported east of Oklahoma City, near Shawnee, and around Tulsa on Wednesday, the largest were around Duncan, about 80 miles southwest of the state capital, said Anna Payne, state government spokeswoman.

About a dozen smaller fires have been extinguished, Payne added.

The fires come just two months after a string of brush fires that destroyed dozens of homes and scorched tens of thousands of acres across Texas and Oklahoma.

CNN's Christopher King contributed to this report.

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