After unusually warm weather, fires burn 40,000 acres in Oklahoma

2015 was the warmest year since 1880
2015 was the warmest year since 1880

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    2015 was the warmest year since 1880

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2015 was the warmest year since 1880 01:00

Story highlights

  • "Fires are going to burn all night," Oklahoma official tells CNN
  • Records set in Texas, Kansas; temperatures climb in Colorado, New Mexico
  • Fire warnings issued for several areas in Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma

(CNN)After a heat spell brought record-breaking high temperatures to the central United States, wildfires burned about 40,000 acres in Oklahoma on Thursday, Michelle Finch-Walker with the state forestry agency said.

"We haven't had one of these in the last few years," said Mark Goeller, the Oklahoma Forestry Services' fire management chief, told CNN. "Fires are going to burn all night."
Temperatures in Dodge City, Kansas, reached 88 degrees, according to the weather service -- breaking the previous record high for February by two degrees.
El Paso, Texas, where it was 83 degrees; Wichita, Kansas, where it was 77; and Russell, Kansas, which notched 88 degrees, all saw historic highs.
Combining that heat with powerful winds -- the National Weather Service said it recorded gusts of nearly 60 miles per hour in Colorado -- creates dangerous conditions in which fires thrive and spread quickly. One blaze in Harper County, Oklahoma, scorched 17,280 in acres in three hours, according to Goeller.
"We knew today was going to be a bad day," he said.
Red-flag warnings, which advise extreme caution about open flames, were in effect for for 76 of 77 counties in Oklahoma until 7 p.m.
At one point, about 10 million people were under red-flag and high-wind warnings.
Oklahoma's Department of Emergency Management reported that there are no injuries or loss of life. But "a number" of people lost their homes, Goeller said.
The NWS said the risk of fire was considered "extreme" in parts of north Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas and the Oklahoma Panhandle.
The weather service cautioned people against burning outside, as fires could get out of control due to possible strong winds up to 40 miles per hour. Also, conditions are very dry.

L.A. heat wave

The heat spell in the central and southern Plains follows a similar pattern that struck the West earlier this week as Los Angeles, San Francisco and Phoenix all broke records for high temperatures. On Wednesday, Phoenix recorded 91 degrees -- and it's only February.
In parts of Colorado, which is well known for its snow and ski slopes, it felt more like May. Denver is expected to break its high temperature record set in 1930 with a forecast of 73 degrees.
Snow at ski resorts is not expected to melt because it usually takes about three or more days of 50 degree weather to get substantial melting, the CNN weather center said.
So far, 2016 has proven to be a hot year. NASA called January the warmest month ever observed on Earth when looking at how much the temperature departed from its base line.
But the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration called it the second warmest month in terms of how much it deviated from the average for the month. December 2015 took first place.
Regardless of the different assessments by the U.S. agencies, it was an abnormally warm month.