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Wind, trees fuel Oklahoma City fire's push northward

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Wildfire burns near Oklahoma City
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Fire moves north, threatening northern suburban city of Edmond
  • NEW: Blaze is "going to travel through a heavily wooded area," fire chief says
  • NEW: Edmond initiates robocalls urging evacuations in southern part of city
  • Another fire breaks out in southeast Oklahoma City on Wednesday

Read more about the Oklahoma City fires from CNN Oklahoma City affiliate KOCO.

(CNN) -- One of two wildfires burning in Oklahoma City on Wednesday pushed north toward suburban Edmond, illuminating the windy night sky with spirals of flame and flying embers.

The fire broke out Tuesday in the less densely populated northeast Oklahoma City and was moving in a northerly direction toward more largely residential, Edmond Fire Chief Tim Wheeler said.

"The winds have shifted a bit," Wheeler said. "It's current path it's going to travel through a heavily wooded area, which will allow the fire to grow in intensity."

He said it is hoped the fire can be stopped before it crosses Interstate 44 to the southeast of Edmond, but the department had already initiated its Code Red system, which autodials residents' telephone numbers encouraging them to evacuate.

About 380 residents were affected by the initial evacuation call, he said.

"It's real difficult to fight a fire like this when it gets to all those trees," Wheeler said. "We can't get our rigs in."

Wildfires force evacuations in TX, OK
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He said that firefighters were getting support during the day from Oklahoma National Guard helicopters equipped with water buckets, "but now that it's dark, it's up to the crews on the ground."

The northeast fire had claimed about 15 square miles since it broke out on Tuesday. Live aerial images from CNN Oklahoma City affiliate KOCO Wednesday night showed brilliant columns of flame bursting through tree canopies and threatening homes in a residential area.

Oklahoma City Fire Chief Keith Bryant said firefighters had "pretty much" contained the northeast fire on Wednesday before winds freshened and caused it to flare up anew.

Meanwhile, a fire that started Wednesday afternoon in the southeast side of the city had destroyed two structures and caused some evacuations, he said. Bryant said that fire covered an area 1.5 miles long and a mile wide.

KOCO reported that the evacuations from the southeast section covered a square-mile area.

The fires forced closure of a 40-mile section of Interstate 44 between the capital city and Tulsa, according to Jack Damrill, a spokesperson with the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority.

Bryant said that in the case of both fires, the evacuations have been targeted because the areas are not densely populated. He said the department's resources have been stretched thin trying to fight the fires amid the high winds and tinder-dry conditions.

Like neighboring Texas, nearly all of Oklahoma is suffering from a severe drought, with two-thirds under the most severe category, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

 
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