NORMAN — The Norman Fire Department terminated the East Norman Command at 7 p.m. on Thursday for the fire that started south of Norman at noon last Friday. Fire crews had remained on the scene doing suppression continuously until the last flare up had been extinguished and all threat was eliminated.
While the Forestry Department reports nearly 9,000 acres burned in Cleveland County, in this particular fire, an estimated 5,000 acres were affected with half of that land located in Norman according to city staff reports.
Thursday, the State Fire Marshall ruled that four fires in Cleveland County, outside of Norman city limits, were arson. The city manager reported to members of Norman City Council that the investigation into the Norman portion of the weekend fires is ongoing.
“We are working with the State Fire Marshal, Norman Police Department and the Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office,” he wrote in the report. “It is believed that the original fire was intentionally set, and we have evidence indicating many set fires in the area.”
Federal Emergency Management Agency damage assessments are being completed. The assistance, if approved, would most likely be for individuals, not response agencies, the city manager reports.
FEMA will reimburse fire agencies through the Fire Management Assistance Grant.
“The reimbursement is 75 percent of approved costs,” said Cleveland County Emergency Management Director Dan Cary. “There’s a threshold, and you have to meet your threshold. It’s a statewide threshold.”
Those fire expenses are reported to the Forestry Department.
“These fires can be so devastating to communities, and we are committed to supporting our state and local partners during this time,” said FEMA Region 6 Acting Administrator Tony Robinson.
Eligible costs covered by the aid can include expenses for field camps, equipment use, repair and replacement; tools, materials and supplies, and mobilization and demobilization activities.
The Norman city manager reported at least 107 homes destroyed by the fire in Cleveland County, but Cary said that count is continuing to rise as teams go through the affected areas.
Bluebird of happiness
School teacher Mary Maggi lives on Etowah Road east of 132nd Avenue. On Aug. 3, she was not able to return home because of the grass fire.
“I got a half a mile east of my house, and I was turned back by the fire itself, and this blacker than black smoke,” she said.
Worried about her two cats, Maxie and Mia, her home, and years of genealogy research, she slept about two hours that night.
“It’s a sick feeling when you don’t know,” she said.
Saturday morning at 6 a.m., she was allowed back into her home. Later the road was blocked again, but that morning she returned home.
While much of her property was burned, the fire had reached a concrete barrier around her home and stopped.
A mother bluebird had returned to tend to her nest.
“I have five bluebird boxes, and it’s very late in the summer for her to be nesting, but she was,” Maggi said.
Inside the house, Maxie and Mia greeted her as if nothing was wrong.
“The electric was still on,” she said. “I even had air conditioning.”
Maggi is going to buy a fire proof safe. She may also scan genealogical documents and store them online somewhere.
“This was arson, this wasn’t even nature taking care of itself,” she said.
Maggi said she heard it was 12 percent humidity, 113 degrees and 25 mph winds that Friday. The fire melted a trailer house 80 yards to the southwest of her home.
Maggi doesn’t know why she was so fortunate when so many people lost their homes, but she, like the mother bluebird, is happy to be able to return to her nest.