EOD training sparks 6,400-acre fire

EOD training sparks 6,400-acre fire

FORT SILL, Okla._Dozens of firefighters are still working to contain a fire on Fort Sill's western edge that has now burned some 6,400 acres.

The fire started just before 2:00 p.m. Monday during a training exercise. Officials say soldiers with the Explosive Ordnance Detachment, who are trained to safely detonate dangerous objects, were at the Crater Creek demolition area when one of their explosions ignited the blaze. Chief Langford said within minutes of yesterday's explosion, the fire quickly began to spread.

Fort Sill says the fire is contained, but not completely out. They hope to have it out by nightfall.

"Our initial response consisted of four brush trucks and an incident command vehicle. And upon arrival, it went beyond the confines of the range and beyond our capabilities," Chief Langford said.

Due to the spread of the fire, crews were not able to get into the mountainous terrain. Crews went to the northern part of the fire, near the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center, to draw a border line.

"That was the only option we had. We had about an hour lead time to go to the north boundary and start backfiring. That was our only option and it has worked, and all of our control lines are holding," Chief Langford explained.

Crews continued to backburn along Highway 115 and around both the post side and the refuge side to keep the fire from spreading. They also have the use of helicopters from the Oklahoma National Guard to drop water near the fire.

"At this point, anything near the refuge and the Visitors Center has been contained," Chief Langford said.

Chief Langford says Tuesday's training exercise, which accidentally sparked the fire, was a necessity. He said anytime soldiers are working to destroy those explosive items, sometimes accidents happen.

"This is my 20th year here, and this is probably the third mishap in this particular location. It is a rare occurrence," Chief Langford said. "It's a risky business when you're in demolition."

Chief Langford says crews have been working around the clock to keep this fire from getting off post. The Fort Sill Fire Department, Wildlife Refuge Fire Department and several volunteer firefighters from Comanche County worked through the night. Chief Langford says without their help, this could have been a disaster.

"It's absolutely priceless. There is no way we could accomplish this mission without their help," Chief Langford said.

Chief Langford wants to stress to the public that no one is in danger of the fire, but he says people can expect heavy smoke, especially north of the refuge, for the next several days.