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Drought-fueled fires destroy homes across Oklahoma

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    A home burns during a large wildfire Friday, Aug. 3, 2012 in Luther, Okla. A wildfire whipped by gusty, southerly winds swept through rural woodlands north and south of Oklahoma City on Friday, burning several homes as firefighters struggled to contain it in 113-degree heat. (AP Photo/The Oklahoman, Bryan Terry)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Cedar trees burn after a wildfire in the eastern part of the Cleveland County jumped 144th Ave SE near Cedar Lane, Friday, Aug. 3, 2012 in Slaughter, Okla.. A wildfire whipped by gusty, southerly winds swept through rural woodlands north and south of Oklahoma City on Friday, burning several homes as firefighters struggled to contain it in 113-degree heat.(AP Photo/The Norman Transcript, Jerry Laizure)
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LUTHER, Okla. >> While residents of one Oklahoma town sifted through their charred belongings  to salvage what they could after a roaring wildfire that may have been deliberately set, residents in several other towns were being ordered to evacuate their homes.

The fire near Luther, about 25 miles northeast of Oklahoma City, destroyed nearly five dozen homes and other buildings before firefighters were able to gain some measure of control Saturday. The Luther fire was one of at least 10 burning Saturday in Oklahoma, where a severe drought has parched the landscape.

The fires include a large one in Creek County, in northeastern Oklahoma, that officials said had claimed about 78 square miles, and another about 35 miles to the west in Payne County. Emergency management officials ordered residents of Mannford, in Creek County; Glencoe, in Payne County; Drumright, in Lincoln County; Oak Grove, in Pawnee County; and Quinton, in Pittsburg County, to leave their homes, according to Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management spokeswoman Keli Cain.

Cain said no serious injuries had been reported.

A fire near the Tom Steed Reservoir in Kiowa County was also causing water delivery problems to Altus, in neighboring Jackson County, Cain said.

Authorities suspect the fire near Luther may have been intentionally set, while the cause of the others was undetermined. The Oklahoma County sheriff’s department said it was looking for someone in a black pickup truck who was seen throwing newspapers out a window after setting them ablaze.

The summer in Oklahoma is shaping up to be much like last year’s, with little rainfall, low humidity and temperatures exceeding 110 degrees in many locations. The Oklahoma Forestry Commission said that means it also could be another bad year for wildfires. "I think it’s going to be right up there, (as among the worst) in memories, at least," said Michelle Finch-Walker, an agency spokeswoman.

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