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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Wildfires Rip Through Oklahoma

Aired January 1, 2006 - 20:04   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to our continuing live coverage of a fire now burning inside the metro area of Oklahoma City. You're looking at a neighborhood in a metropolitan area of about 600,000-to-800,000 people that live in Oklahoma City.
This is just part of our continuing coverage of these grass fires that have plagued both Texas, and Oklahoma. In Oklahoma these grass fires may end up burning some 250,000 acres, but some of the worst is happening right now.

In the city, in a neighborhood about 10 miles from the downtown capital area. I have been talking with the emergency management people there, the fire department. They've got about 950 firefighters working in shifts in the city of Oklahoma.

What they're planning on doing in this particular neighborhood is they're trying to save whatever homes they can, but you have been watching on our air right now, as the flames consume these large homes. Fortunately, the neighborhood has been evacuated. No reports of any injuries, which is really remarkable, given the conditions on the ground.

The problem for firefighters right now is that the winds are blowing from 30-to-35 miles per hour. They're coming out of the west. They're trying to stop the fire in its tracks in this neighborhood. They're actually going to allow it to burn to one of the main roads, Sooner Road, and what firefighters are going to try to do is stop the fire in its tracks right there.

Hopefully cooler nighttime temperatures will help them. But in the meantime, the neighborhoods to the east are waiting, hoping, hoping that knock doesn't come on their door, which is going to be the sheriff's department telling them you have to get out. You only have a matter of minutes. I've been talking with a veteran pilot, news pilot for one of our CNN affiliates KWTV, Mason Dunn, who has lived in Oklahoma City all of his life, talks about this fire from his vantage point.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

MASON DUNN, KWTV NEWS PILOT: Two of the fires that we went on were started right at a road, a paved road that somebody was probably, could have been driving down and threw their cigarette out. We got 40 mile-an-hour winds right now. They were trying to call the Chinook helicopters in to come help, try to put this fire out right here in the metro. The helicopters are not flying because it's dark or it's too windy, or both. So right now Oklahoma City Fire Department has a lot on their hands trying to get this fire out, just attacking it on the ground.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

LIN: Interesting to hear from Mason Dunn, given that he has lived in Oklahoma City all of his life. And he talked about how, you know, part of his job is to report what he's seeing, but he also knows in the back of his mind that there are families out there who are watching their street, as their house burns and there's really not much he can do.

And in addition to his reporting on this fire, he has also been ferrying some firefighters ahead of the fire, trying to help the fire department there get ahead of these flames. Firefighters have been working nonstop throughout the day. These fires started earlier this evening in this neighborhood.

And there you're looking at probably what is a two-story family home on fire right now. The sheriff was talking on one of our local affiliates and he was talking about some of the evacuations and how people don't want to leave their homes. They don't want to be in a place where they're watching these pictures, not knowing whether their house is down there -- or rather, you know, they would rather stay and get that garden hose out and try to douse some of the flames or at least water down their home, just to have a better chance of saving everything that they have collected and all their memories.

Talking with the fire department, they're saying if that knock comes on their door, people don't even have a chance to grab their photo albums. They should just grab the family pet and leave, because if the sheriffs have come, it means that the fire is just moments away of burning in their neighborhood.

The fires there near 63rd and Sooner Road in Oklahoma City. The firefighters are saying one of the difficulties in fighting this fire is that the winds are blowing so hard that they can't keep up with the embers. The embers will jump ahead, sometimes a half mile or a mile ahead and start burning in a different neighborhood.

So even as we watch this neighborhood burning, there are firefighters to the east literally hosing down streets and lawns and houses and dousing any ember fires that may erupt to try to keep this fire from spreading. One of the firefighters was saying that this line of fire that you're looking at right now is a mile wide.

A family neighborhood up in flames, 10 miles from downtown Oklahoma City. A metropolitan area relatively sizable, something like 800,000 people live in these areas. Now the Department of Emergency Management in Oklahoma, says that they're confident that the Oklahoma City Fire Department can handle these fires in the city.

They're also worried about grass fires burning outside the city for example, in area Cimarron City and Stigler and Wayne -- and OK, they have asked the Forest Service to come in and help. They're saying that the winds are just moving these flames so quickly they simply cannot keep up. Now the people who own these homes down there, they're watching, they're waiting. We've heard from a property owner who spoke with one of our affiliates just a short while ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I followed the smoke. And then when I got to my driveway, I didn't see it. I went in the house and I heard the fire truck, so I came back out and the lady had pulled in my driveway. And I looked to the north of me, and there was flames going everywhere. And we got water hoses and the neighborhoods have brought in front-end loaders trying to put it out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LIN: That's what it's like to be on the ground right now, wondering what should you go -- what should you do? Should you stay? Should you go? What should you take with you? How you can't believe this is happening to you.

Right now, I've got Chris Lee, who is a photographer from that affiliate, who shot that interview, KOCO. Chris, you're in one of the neighborhoods right now that's on fire?

CHRIS LEE, PHOTOGRAPHER, KOCO: Yes, I'm at the police command post, 63rd and northeast Sooner Road. And we're kind of in the middle of smoke and we can see the flames and the glow off to our south. Hopefully they've got it under control as much as possible right now. But yes, we're right in the middle here, there are fire trucks going all different directions and they're trying to keep it from jumping the roads from where we are.

LIN: Chris, how do you think from your vantage point -- how do you think the fire department is doing right now? Do you think they're going to be able to stop this at Sooner Road?

LEE: Yes, apparently it was touch and go there for awhile, and we had the winds shifting back and forth and at over 40 miles-an-hour and they had to kind of make a stand along Sooner Road. And the winds were blowing, trying to blow the flames across the road. But they set the fire trucks so that they could douse anything that was coming across and to keep it from crossing. The fire is still in there, but apparently it's not close to jumping across right now, so we're hopeful of that.

LIN: Chris, what's on the other side of Sooner Road if it jumps the road?

LEE: Well, this is kind of a rural area. The sporadic houses and there are some housing additions, but it is kind of rural. Because of that there's a lot of grass and what we have around here is these eastern red cedar trees, which they just go up like torches when they catch fire.

And that kind of throws the fire, it will jump from tree to tree and it can really take off on them in a strong wind, so there's a lot of that out here. And there's a house, I've been here at this location, and there is a small house just across the street. And for a long time there were no fire trucks there. Once the fire got fairly close, now they've got a fire truck close and they have managed to keep the fire from that.

LIN: Chris, give us some perspective. I don't know if you've ever seen anything like this in Oklahoma City.

LEE: Well, I have been doing this for 28 years for KOCO and I have seen some things. This is almost, I wouldn't say its the worst case scenario. The worst case scenario is when you have so much fire that there's not enough equipment to get in front and get it stopped. When they go and they try to stop it at the road and it really, it just jumps right over the top of you. So that kind of thing has been avoided at this point and we're just, I think we have it contained.

The fire's not out, but at this point, it appears to be contained, and we may have lost a house or two, but nobody hurt, and I don't know even for sure if it was a house or what has burned in there for sure.

LIN: Well, what we're looking at right now, Chris, when we take a look at these pictures, it just looks like utter, total devastation in this neighborhood.

LEE: I'm sorry, I got distracted there, what did you say?

LIN: I was just saying that it looks like total devastation in this neighborhood. I mean it's hard to tell in the dark what exactly is burning.

LEE: Well, that's true and for us, we're not able to get in there and see. And the fire department is somewhat unclear of what has been burned. They're much more concerned with staying ahead of it.

We've been asking -- this is like the fourth or fifth fire I've been on today and you ask the firefighters where it started and they have no idea. They're not even in that mode. They're just a matter of trying to, in some cases, they're not even trying to put the fire out as much as they're just trying to keep it away from the houses and then they'll make a stand at a road where, you know, where they can stop it from going across and hopefully get it put out that way.

LIN: Right. Chris, right now we're looking at what clearly is some kind of a two-story building there, a house that has, it's completely gone, completely gone. I think I see the chimney of an old fireplace but that's about it.

LEE: Yes, that's, I'm not seeing that right now with you, but yes, that's the kind of thing that's happened. I know that the fires -- we had several fires around Oklahoma City right now. And there are some where there have been houses that just were, you know, there weren't enough fire apparatus to get out there to where the fires -- to where the houses were.

LIN: Chris...

LEE: ... we're looking at a flare up here on our side right now also. I can't tell whether it's trees or -- it's in the trees, I can just see flames coming up right now so it's still going for awhile.

LIN: And the wind's still blowing. I can hear it on your microphone.

LEE: Yes, the wind has come up in the last little bit.

LIN: Well these wildfires, I'm not sure that anybody there, Chris, thought that it would reach the urban areas, that it would actually get to the city.

LEE: Yes, this is going away from the main parts of the city, but you know how cities are. They're kind of sporadic. There are people -- there are clusters of houses or housing additions that they're putting on out here and it's -- it gets close to that, it's a little -- that's a major concern.

LIN: The numbers coming out of the state emergency management folks, Chris, they're saying that wildfires are burning in 24 Oklahoma counties since last Tuesday. And they're looking at something like 250,000-to-300,000 acres, including a lot of prairie acres, but 200 homes have burned so far.

LEE: Yes, and that's just, you know, that's just the reality of it, that once it gets going, particularly in the rural areas -- certainly enough in the city we have a lot of fire trucks and things that we can call on and even the suburbs have, you know, can help out. But you get out in the rural areas and there's not -- there's just not enough equipment, so there's only so much you can do.

LIN: Right, right. They're now asking for help from the U.S. Forest Service. So, let's hope the federal government comes through. Chris Lee, photographer with KOCO, is on the scene of a big fire in a neighborhood about 10 miles from downtown Oklahoma City. Parts of Oklahoma City now on fire. We are in continuing live coverage right here on CNN. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LIN: Good evening. I'm Carol Lin at the CNN Center. We are covering a wildfire which has now spread to the city of Oklahoma City. Right now you're looking at your screen where firefighters are taking a stand on a fire in a neighborhood near Sooner Road and 63rd. What they are saying is they may have to allow some of those structures to continue to burn. They are focused on trying to draw a line against this fire at Sooner Road, to type it from jumping the road and burning down even more homes. Now earlier, on one of our affiliates, we heard from a resident who had just been evacuated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I followed the smoke. And then when I got to my driveway, I didn't see it. I went in the house and I heard the fire truck, so I came back out and the lady had pulled in my driveway. And I looked to the north of me, and there was flames going everywhere. And we got water hoses and the neighborhoods have brought in front-end loaders trying to put it out. They said police officers were knocking on doors, police officers knocked on doors. The policemen told me to go in my house, get everything that I could out of the house that I wanted personal and get away from the house.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Also, is there anything you guys are doing other than waiting right now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. I've called for the fire trucks since a little after 5:00 and one hasn't arrived yet and what is it, about 7:00 now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah, Tamara (ph), they are still waiting for the fire department. I actually was on the phone with ...

LIN: All right. That is the latest from one of the homeowners in this neighborhood who was told to pack up and get out. When that knock on the door comes, Oklahoma City Fire Department tells me that it's too late to even pack anything. I'm surprised that even the police officer told her that she had time to grab some of her stuff. Normally, the firefighters say you have time to grab the family pet, get in your car and get out.

They're also asking people to stay away. They don't want lookie- loos (ph). It is a very serious situation in this neighborhood which is about - a short distance, about 10 miles from Downtown Oklahoma City. It's a population of about 800,000 people in the Oklahoma City metro area. Many of these people have been watching these grassfires burn out in the prairie, perhaps not even thinking that it could reach the city center.

But winds now are blowing anywhere from 30 to 50 miles per hour. I am getting different reports on that. The situation on the ground is very dry, it is very hot. In fact, when I talked with the Oklahoma City Fire Department a short time ago they couldn't even give me the number of people evacuated right now because the situation is so fluid on the ground.

But as you look at these pictures and you see the line of smoke and the fires burning, some houses we saw completely consumed in the flames, others the fire department tells me that firefighters are in there trying to - at least take a stand and save some of those homes but the priority right now is to get a line of firefighters out on Sooner Road, hold the fire to that road, keep it from jumping into the next neighborhood.

Monica is in the CNN Weather Center right now. Monica McNeal, your experience as a meteorologist. These people need some moisture but it doesn't look like there's anything in sight.

MONICA MCNEAL, CNN METEOROLOGIST: No, it doesn't look like there's any moisture in sight, Carol, but some good news could certainly come from the cooler temperatures. As you take a look at the surface map I want indicate and point out to you that there is a cold front that has moved through Oklahoma. You can certainly see it is well defined there. It is drifting through Oklahoma, moving through parts of Shawnee, which is right in this general area back around Henrietta and eventually, by about 8:00 Central Time it will pass through Tulsa.

Now what will that exactly mean? Well, it's already starting to shift the winds around out of the north and west. Some of the areas are getting winds out of the north and west. It will not keep the winds from being as strong but the slightly cooler temperatures and the humidity will rise just a little bit so this could certainly lessen some of the fire danger just a little bit for you.

So some of the firemen out there that are working so very hard. That's about the best we could do. In terms of the temperatures, they are still very, very warm at this time of the year and that's really been a big part of the whole situation, the extremely warm temperatures as well as the extreme drought, a lack of sufficient rainfall for an extended period of time and for a long time just has been the deficit in terms of months of rainfall just has not added up to enough rainfall for Oklahoma or Texas.

Then you've got those very strong winds and the air is extremely dry. The humidity between 10 and 15 percent so when we're battling all of these different elements, that has certainly created a big problem but going into tomorrow I do want to show you the surface map for tomorrow. We do shift the fire danger out of the Panhandle and we shift it a little bit farther toward the east, it will eventually move into parts of Arkansas, but Oklahoma and East Texas is still under the gun for the activity and you can certainly see how all we need is just a little rain, but that's really not going to help us out.

Carol?

LIN: All right. Yeah. It looks like a pretty dry map right now.

MCNEAL: Yeah, it is.

LIN: Monica, you lived in that part of the country.

MCNEAL: Mm-hmm.

LIN: When they talk about these winds blowing and a prairie, it just probably sounds like the flames can skip, jump for miles.

MCNEAL: And I've actually seen that. I covered several fires living in San Angelo, Texas, and I tell you what, it is very, very nerve-wracking and very scary to actually see the fire jump and they talk about the embers and how the wind is just really - I mean, it's just like - it's so incredible, it's like bumping your head up against a brick wall when you've got these winds that are just driving in, 30 to 40 mile an hour winds that are relentless and they will not give up and that's what makes it so very difficult for these firefighters, but as I was saying, living there, I've seen the extremely dry conditions.

You can - it's like brittle, some of the grass and some of the trees and things are literally like brittle, they will just crumble up and fall off in your hand.

LIN: Because they're talking about a drought that they've had for the last six months.

MCNEAL: Yeah.

LIN: You just pick up the grass and it just turns to dust in your hands.

MCNEAL: Yeah. It literally turns to dust.

LIN: All right, Monica, thank you so much. Good to have you onboard because the firefighters can be watching as well.

MCNEAL: Right.

LIN: To see what's on that map, is there any help in sight?

MCNEAL: And the only help, like I said, with the slightly cooler temperatures and the humidity rising up a little bit. That will help the conditions out somewhat.

LIN: OK.

MCNEAL: We don't have any rain.

LIN: Right.

MCNEAL: And we don't have a whole lot of moisture ...

LIN: They just need to stop that fire from spreading into a different neighborhood.

MCNEAL: Exactly.

LIN: Our affiliate KOCO right now is in the midst of it. Let's listen in to their air.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To Albert Ashwood, who is the director of the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management and Terry (ph), any word on what we expect to hear from them other than the obvious?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, right now we're just kind of expecting the obvious. We know the governor has flown back into the State of Oklahoma from San Diego. They cut short his vacation to come back because of the emergency situation.

LIN: The affiliates are waiting to hear from the emergency management department. I talked with Albert Ashwood of the Department of Emergency Management and he was saying that they've got firefighters out there. He's confident that the 950 firefighters in Oklahoma City will be able to control this fire in this neighborhood. He is very worried about the prairie fires, the grassfires that are growing outside of Oklahoma City, that there are volunteer firefighters out there but they have requested help from the Department of Forestry and they're waiting for more firefighters to get out onto those prairies to put that grassfire out which - who knew that it would reach the metropolitan Oklahoma City area where some 800,000 people are living right now, many of those people, some of those people evacuated now and perhaps watching on their television screens as their neighborhood goes up in smoke.

But firefighters are saying that some of the hotspots that you're looking at on your screen may not be houses themselves but the shrubbery or the grass burning in that neighborhood. They know of at least two houses that have been consumed by fire. Right now we are looking at one of them we've been watching for the last hour burning to the ground.

I was talking with veteran journalist and helicopter pilot Mason Dunn, KWTV, who said that it's just heartbreaking for him to watch as these homes burn and not be able to do anything but bring these pictures to people and give them the very latest situation. This is what he told me a short time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MASON DUNN, KWTV PILOT (on phone): We see a lot of devastation. We have a fire here just about three miles from the station where I'm based out of, which is KWTV Oklahoma City and we've been covering fires all day, Carol. We've been up towards Tulsa, we went to Guthrie, we went to Cimarron City and now we're here right in the metro where we have a large grassfire that's already taken three structures. As you can see, one of the houses, that's a big two story house now engulfed in flames right now, Carol.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LIN: A two-story house full of memories and full of collections and a family's life now burning up in smoke.

The situation in Oklahoma right now, 250,000 acres have burned across the state but now the fire has reached metropolitan Oklahoma City. This neighborhood, where firefighters are desperately taking a stand, trying to keep this fire from spreading into other neighborhoods but they're saying it is such an unpredictable situation. The embers from this fire leapfrogging ahead as firefighters in neighborhoods to the east are trying to put out spot fires to try to keep this from, the scene that you're seeing right now, from spreading into at least two different neighborhoods.

When I talked with Oklahoma City firefighters, the public information officer for that fire department, he said that they don't even have an estimate of the number of people who have had to be evacuated from these neighborhoods, but he did say as a warning to people who may be watching who are in that neighborhood, if a knock comes on the door, be prepared. They are going to tell you to get out immediately. Just grab the family pet and go. You don't even have time to grab clothes or photos. If you're in that area, be prepared, because they're saying that they can't even give you a direction of where that fire might be headed.

The embers from different spot fires within that fire that you're watching on our screen could go just about anywhere, especially with these winds blowing because as the winds shift, so do the directions of the embers.

They are saying, though, that there is little danger to downtown Oklahoma City, about 10 miles away from this neighborhood. They are going to get firefighters who have been working around the clock, are going to get a little bit relief tonight. They've got some cooler temperatures on their side tonight but the problem is there is no moisture in the forecast at all and as soon as sunrise comes, so does the hotter temperatures and the increasing winds.

There we are watching a family home burn. We are on continuing live coverage as we watch this wildfire now reaching inside Oklahoma City proper. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

LIN: Welcome back to our continuing breaking news coverage, as we cover a wildfire that has now reached metropolitan Oklahoma City. You're watching a neighborhood burn down there. A two-story family home about 10 miles from Downtown Oklahoma City. Firefighters on the ground are saying they are trying to stop this wildfire at a main road called Sooner Road to keep it from spreading into other neighborhoods. This fire is just a continuation of the grassfires that have been burning across some 250,000 acres of Oklahoma prairie land, but it has now reached city limits.

Earlier I was speaking with KWTV's pilot and journalist, a helicopter pilot who has been flying over these fires and this is what he told me about what he's been seeing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DUNN: It looks like they're at the front of the fire. The fire is moving quickly to the east and they are on, I believe, Sooner Road trying to head that fire off but this fire has already engulfed several acres. There are several homes in this. As you can see, one going up right there.

Well, it's kind of dark, I can't tell, but it looks like I can see a chimney coming up in the middle of it. It's a lot of black smoke and there is quite a big steel building out in the back of it so - right now we know at least one mobile home has been burned and they're trying to save another one and it looks like we've got another house going up here, I'm not sure if it's occupied or not.

Well, this fire has spread very quickly. We had a wind shift come through and that did not help matters at all. Firefighters on the other fires were preparing theirself for the winds coming out of the southeast and we had a cold front or something come through, a wind shift, now the winds are directly out of the west and these fires have just taken off and firefighters are not able to get a handle on it right now. Once these fires keep going, Carol, it is amazing, it's like a firestorm, if the wind blows, this fire will travel about a mile - about a quarter mile to half a mile wide, it will travel a mile in about 10 minutes. So if you have a house, we watched a house yesterday just get fully engulfed with some tall grass that was around it and it was just amazing how quick these fires spread.

We have had about 20 to 30,000 acres, is that what you said, that have been burned so far ...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LIN: Actually, 250,000 acres now in the State of Oklahoma City (sic), the big fireball in the middle is a home burning in the middle of this neighborhood where firefighters are really trying to prioritize and stop the fire from jumping the main road there into the other neighborhoods but this is a much better seen than what we saw earlier, there was a wall of fire about a mile long in that neighborhood and it was moving in on these homes. We watched at least two homes completely engulfed in flames. We heard from one of the property owners who said that she was coming down one of the main roads and she was stopped by firefighters. She was told there was this wildfire that had spread into her neighborhood and she was told that she had to get out.

That was all the notice that this woman got that everything that she had may be destroyed by a wildfire that has moved into the city.

Monica, folks there, it's - you see from our affiliate reporters, people have worked there for a long time. This is a community where people have been very close, grown up together, know these neighborhoods very well. I know it's got to be so hard for them to watch these fires burn in these neighborhoods and wonder what's going to happen next.

MCNEAL: Right. And you can't do anything about it. You're battling the elements but the good news, some good news, Carol, the high wind warning and the wind advisory have expired so they're no longer going to issue another high wind warning or wind advisory for right now, so that's certainly some good news and we are starting to see some of the wind, the maximum sustained winds and the gusts are starting to taper off just a little bit, so that is some good news, too, as well as the slightly cooler temperatures as we get into the evening hours with the humidity may rise just a little bit, that could also the firefighters as they're continuing to battle these fires.

We did have a cold front move on through and as I was listening to the footage there one of the gentlemen was saying that he noticed something had moved through, a cold front, and it was exactly a cold front. This is the demarcation line right about here as it moved on through parts of Oklahoma and moved on through parts of Henrietta.

Now what happens with that, that system moved through and it shifted those winds around to the northwest. Now it looks like they're still going to be dealing with some very strong winds and the very dry conditions are still going to be a problem, but the cooler temperatures will start to help them out just a little bit, Carol?

LIN: You bet. Watching these homes burning to the ground and it's got to be - it's so hard for all of us. I was talking with one of the helicopter pilots there and he said that he's worked in Oklahoma City for all of his life and he just feels like he wants to be helping people but all he can do is bring them these dramatic pictures of their neighborhood.

MCNEAL: Right. Well, it looks like, as you were saying earlier, it's somewhat under control. It's not as bad as it was a little while ago when we were watching when there was just a wall of fire around that entire neighborhood. It looks like they may be able to - are getting it under some control.

LIN: Yeah, but the winds, you're saying, are they beginning to die down a little bit? Because they were talking about 30, 35 mile an hour winds blowing.

MCNEAL: Yes. Winds are - the gusts are not as great. We're not seeing those 50 and 60 mile an hour gusts that we were seeing a couple of hours ago and that's because we lost the daylight and we lost some of the friction in the atmosphere so we're starting to see the gusts taper off a little bit, too. Now they're in the 20s and 30s. So that's a little bit better.

LIN: Yeah.

MCNEAL: Anything is better than nothing.

LIN: You bet. You bet. And - because those fires actually create weather conditions of their own, right?

MCNEAL: Exactly, exactly, and by jumping around they certainly do and with the winds literally drive the fires in the direction that they're going and that's always a problem, too.

LIN: They can just contain these fire and kind of tamp them down a little bit then the fire - because the heat rising creates its own winds ...

MCNEAL: Exactly.

LIN: ... and then it just starts feeding on itself, which is the problem that they were having about four hours ago close to sundown.

MCNEAL: Right and it ignites another fire and another fire. When you've got this wind pushing the fire and these embers jumping around like that, so ...

LIN: Mm-hmm. And we're watching there, it looks like - Monica, it looks like that's all that's left of a home. It looks like what's left is the chimney that's going to be standing there in the morning.

MCNEAL: Very sad.

LIN: Why has it been so hot in Texas and Oklahoma? MCNEAL: You know what? I certainly understand what you're saying and the reason why it's been so warm for an extended period of time is the subtropical jet stream is very far north at this point so that really allows the very warm temperatures to rise, to continue to rise and that's why they haven't had any rain, it's just like a big bubble, a big dome of high pressure is just sitting over the state and it's almost not able to penetrate this dome of high pressure, so we can't get any moisture in here, we can't get anything to penetrate the dome of high pressure and that's why we haven't seen any rain.

LIN: For anyone who seen "The Incredibles", the movie, it's like a force field.

MCNEAL: Exactly. You're absolutely right.

LIN: Reflecting off any of the moisture there that they need so desperately down there.

MCNEAL: Yeah. And it doesn't look like they're going to see - it looks like a dry week for the entire region. Don't anticipate any rain in the forecast over the next couple of days.

LIN: All right. Monica, thank you.

MCNEAL: Mm-hmm.

LIN: We're going to take a quick break. This is our continuing breaking news coverage of the fire that has now reached inside of Oklahoma City.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

LIN: We have been in breaking news because there is now a situation in Oklahoma City where wildfires have reached into urban areas now and a neighborhood is on fire. At least two houses have burned to the ground and firefighters are trying desperately to stop that fire from spreading into other neighborhoods. This is after five days of a wildfire, grassfires burning outside of the city proper, but they are now reaching to the city and parts of Oklahoma City are on fire.

Property owners there are just finding out that's it, they can't go back, they can't get their things. In fact this is how one woman found out that she would have to evacuate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I saw the smoke and when I got to my driveway I didn't see it and I went in the house and I heard the fire truck and so I came back out and the lady had pulled in my driveway and I looked to the north of me and there was flames going everywhere and we got water hoses and the neighbors just brought in front end loaders trying to put it out. LIN: So now a city with a population of 600 to 800,000 people is now being directly touched by these wildfires that have scorched some 250,000 acres in the State of Oklahoma. Remarkably, in these most recent fires, especially in the city, and the outer-lying areas today, no injuries and no deaths to report, which is remarkable because of the intensity of this fire. We have reports of flames leaping 35 feet high into the air and firefighters who are working around the clock exhausted, trying to battle these blazes.

Oklahoma City's Fire Department is saying that they've got some 950 firefighters working in different shifts, some of those firefighters in that neighborhood fire right now as they try to stop it from spreading and other firefighters leapfrogging ahead to the east as the winds there were blowing at about 30 to 35 miles per hour, trying to get ahead of those embers to stomp out those fires that were starting in the neighborhoods to the east to try to keep this fire contained to this one neighborhood.

It is going to be an all-night battle as firefighters try to stop that fire at a main road called Sooner Road.

Now, I was talking with one of our affiliate photographers who was at the command post in that neighborhood. He said one of the problems in this fire is the vegetation in that area. There is dry, brittle grass because there has been a drought for the last six months and there are eastern red cedar trees which are just fuel for this fire. The oil from these cedar trees extremely flammable, and once the flames hit those trees, the trees virtually explode and those embers spreading the fire, once again, to another house or neighborhood.

Monica McNeal has been invaluable tonight from the CNN weather center. She has been giving us the big picture of why it's so hot and what is to come for these folks.

Monica, for the folks just tuning in now, what hope do you have for the firefighters on the ground who are trying to control this blaze?

MCNEAL: Well, the hope that we have for them tonight right now as we said earlier, for those of you just tuning in, as Carol just indicated, there was earlier in the day a high wind warning and a wind advisory. Those have expired, so that's certainly some good news. We still have the problem of the winds and we still have the problems of the very low humidity, but a cold front has moved through and the temperatures will start to cool off as we get into the latter part of the evening. The humidity will rise just a little bit so that should help lessen the fire damage just a very little bit.

But this is the big picture and this is why we're seeing the activity that we're seeing in parts of Oklahoma and into parts of Texas. The ground is extremely dry. There has been an extreme drought as Carol indicated for about the past six months and lack of significant rainfall has created this problem.

And then, when you factor in very strong winds - we've seen winds gusting up to about 60 miles per hour, this is major, and then the air is extremely dry. We've got humidity levels between 10 and 15 percent, so this really creates a major problem. Also, there is an area of low pressure that really helped to create this problem, as well, and you can certainly see if you look to the north of your television, right there, that counterclockwise rotation swinging in that winds out of the south and west, that is what helped to really fuel the fires today.

But the good news is that we've seen a cold front, take a look right here. That's a cold front that moved through about 15 minutes ago. That cold front shifted the winds around to the north and west. Now what does that mean? Well, it's going to cool things off just a little bit, so that's why we're thinking that the firefighters will be getting a little help from those northwesterly winds, they won't be as strong.

The winds are starting to taper off. The reason why we've seen all of these massive fires and these extremely warm temperatures, take a quick look at the surface map. We've got the subtropical jet stream that's well to the north and that allows the temperatures to warm well to the north. As you can see, 75 degrees in Dallas, and a record temperature in Oklahoma today, Carol, of 77 degrees.

LIN: Summertime conditions out there.

MCNEAL: Exactly.

LIN: Exactly what they don't need. Monica, it is a situation that is likely not going to change, so tomorrow - I know this is a pop quiz for you, but do you have any idea what time sunrise is tomorrow, because what the fire department is telling me is that they're hoping to get these water dropping helicopters back up in the air. They can't do it right now because it's dark, it's too dangerous for those helicopters to fly so they just want to make sure that this fire doesn't spread. They protect the other neighborhoods and they want to get those water-dropping helicopters up as soon as possible and hopefully the winds won't be too strong at sunrise.

MCNEAL: Well, they will have - the winds certainly will have slacked off, but you've got to remember once we do see the sun coming up, the sun is a major mechanism in terms of the wind, it drives the wind and helps to stir up the wind so once we start getting the heating of he day, that's when those winds are certainly going to pick up.

I believe they will have a brief break early in the morning if they get everything that they need in place early in the morning, but as we start to get into the mid part of the day and in the latter part of the day, that's when the problems will start again, Carol.

LIN: Mm-hmm. Well, Monica, we're going to be hearing shortly from Oklahoma's governor, Brad Henry. He's going to be holding a news conference to update the residents on the wildfires and now the fire that's burning in Oklahoma City, as Monica was saying, that firefighters may get a brief window tomorrow morning to get those water-dropping helicopters up but then, frankly, it's going to be more of the same.

I mean, ever since last Tuesday, wildfires have been burning across the plains in Oklahoma and in Texas. This is the first time that we are seeing those fires reach an urban area but the picture that you're seeing right now is so much better than what it was an hour and a half ago when there was a wall of fire about a mile long that was moving into this Oklahoma City, neighborhood, this city of about 600 to, 6-700,000 people is just waiting with baited breath to see whether the firefighters can hold that fire, hold that line on Sooner Road and protect the neighborhoods to the east. The winds are dying down, they just need a break.

Right now we're going to toss it to LARRY KING LIVE. More news as it happens.

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