GUTHRIE, Okla. (AP) -- Firefighters slogged through heavy brush and thick smoke to battle a stubborn wildfire that has scorched nearly 40,000 acres while Oklahomans who lost their homes to other blazes sifted through the charred rubble.
The fire that continued burning early Thursday in southern Oklahoma's rugged Arbuckle Mountains was the largest of more than 100 that have consumed fields and forests, and damaged or destroyed at least 60 homes across the state this past week.
"A lot of families are just devastated. I've dealt with a lot of fires but nothing this large," said Pat Oliver, executive director of the Red Cross chapter in Logan County, about 50 miles north of Oklahoma City.
A half dozen air tankers and eight helicopters from Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas ferried tons of water to the 17 wildfires still burning. Between 200 and 300 Forest Service firefighters from across the South were helping weary crews.
"This additional manpower from the Forest Service will be a tremendous asset to fight this fire on the ground," said Albert Ashwood, state director of emergency management
A grass fire along Interstate 35 in the Arbuckle Mounts north of Davis forced the temporary closing of the southbound lanes.
At least 31 homes were destroyed by wildfires that swept across Logan County on Tuesday, Ashwood said. Much of central Oklahoma has not seen measurable rainfall for more than 50 days, and gusty winds have helped spread flames through the dry countryside.
The fire destroyed five of six buildings at the Woodlands Equestrian Centre, including the home of owners David and Laura Harris.
"This is devastating," David Harris said. The cross-country equestrian courses at the center were also ruined.
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