Oklahoma Rhea Fire Grows To 400,000 Acres As National Guard Is Deployed

The Rhea Fire in western Oklahoma continued to spread throughout the state Tuesday, claiming the lives of at least two people andburning through nearly 400,000 acres.

The National Weather Service in Norman, Oklahoma, issued a fire warning at the request of the Rhea Fire Incident Command and the Dewey County Sheriff's Office asking Seiling residents along Highway 60 and east toward Chester to evacuate north and northwest toward Woodward. The NWS issued a 3:42 p.m. Central Time announcement that shelters would be opening in Woodward. More than 1,400 people were forced to flee their homes on Thursday and Friday when the Rhea Fire began to spread rapidly.

The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management requested the air support assistance of the Oklahoma National Guard to help fight the rapidly spreading wildfire Tuesday.

"We have provided air wildfire suppression over the last few days," said Col. Hiram Tabler, director of military support for the Oklahoma National Guard, according to KFOR-TV. "We've used Blackhawk and Chinook helicopters to support those efforts."

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin issued a "burn ban" in 36 counties in coordination with the Oklahoma City Fire Department. Only outdoor cooking with gas and charcoal grills or smokers with no exposed flame are currently allowed.

The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management spokeswoman Keli Cain said in a statement Sunday night that a 61-year-old man died Thursday near Leedey, Oklahoma, and a Seiling woman also died as a result of the fire in the past week. OFS reported more than 500 firefighters are working the Rhea Fire in Dewey County alone. The fire was last reported moving toward the towns of Thomas and Fay.

Officials from several agencies told KOKH-TV the fire was only about three percent contained. National Weather Service Red Flag warnings are in effect for the region through at least Tuesday as temperatures reached the mid-80s on Monday with low humidity and high winds.

"As bad as it is going to be today, we anticipate tomorrow being worse," Oklahoma Forestry Services spokeswoman Shawna Hartman told the Associated Press.

Oklahoma Rhea Fire Grows To 400,000 Acres As National Guard Is Deployed | U.S.