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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

Oklahoma wildfires force 1,400 people from homes

The fire that began on Thursday afternoon has burnt about 331 square kilometres

The remnants of a house north of Woodward, Oklahoma, are seen on April 13, 2018, after it was burnt in a wildfire Thursday evening. Johnny McMahan / The Woodward News via AP
The remnants of a house north of Woodward, Oklahoma, are seen on April 13, 2018, after it was burnt in a wildfire Thursday evening. Johnny McMahan / The Woodward News via AP

An Oklahoma turkey hunter was found alive but badly burnt on Friday after spending the night trapped by one of two wildfires raging in northwestern Oklahoma that forced about 1,400 people from their homes.

The fire that trapped the hunter began on Thursday afternoon near Leedey, about 177 kilometres northwest of Oklahoma City and has burnt about 331 square kilometres, Oklahoma Forestry Services spokeswoman Michelle Finch-Walker said. Three hunters were trapped, but two were rescued.

The man who was burnt was hospitalised in serious condition, Ms Finch-Walker said.

Dewey County Sheriff Clay Sander said his deputies went door-to-door in the small towns of Seiling, Taloga and Putnam telling residents to leave. Mr Sander urged people to heed the warning.

"Your property is not worth your life," he said. "Evacuate and leave it to the firefighters."

The fire also resulted in the evacuation of Vici, a town of about 750, about 32 kilometres north of Leedey. Most Vici residents were able to return home on Friday.

A second fire has burnt more than 485 square kilometres, several homes and forced the evacuation of about 450 people from their homes near Woodward, about 65 kilometres north of Leedey, according to Woodward County Emergency Management Director Matt Lehenbauer.

Ms Finch-Walker said neither of the fires has been contained.

Sally Loyd, who lives with her 16-year-old son near Vici about 16 kilometres south of the Woodward County fire, said she could see the flames, but did not evacuate.

"Not much sleeping just a lot of watching," Ms Loyd said. "I did get out and drive around … but extremely scary."

She said they drove with her son until they saw the lights of emergency vehicles and ash from the fire on the roadway, then turned and went home.

The National Weather Service says dangerous fire weather conditions are expected in much of western Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Panhandle through Saturday, with low humidity and strong winds of 32-48kph and gusts of up to 80kph.

Mr Lehenbauer said the wind has been changing direction, hindering firefighting efforts.

"Every time we have a wind shift, we have a finger of that fire break off and it'll move in a different direction," Mr Lehenbaur said. "We're looking at a really, really rough day."

Gov Mary Fallin declaring a state of emergency for 52 of the state's 77 counties in the western two-thirds of Oklahoma.

Mr Lehenbaur said federal assistance in the form of firefighting personnel and equipment, including aircraft, has been sent to help battle the flames.

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