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Oklahoma wildfires: Noble neighbors work to deal with what remains of their burned homes

The wildfire that snaked its way through the neighborhood in rural Noble left little but destruction in its wake.

A small neighborhood of mostly mobile homes and small acreages once filled the wooded area, which is a left-hand turn off the 10200 block of Maguire Road.

Tim Jones and his father removed shards of glass from the side of a mobile home. The deck and skirting of the home are gone, with generous amounts of ash and soot left in their place.

Jones hangs out of the inside of the home, which finally had electricity restored Monday. An old tire dump smolders nearby.

“They could burn for weeks … that's what they're telling us,” Jones said. “Everything around me … is just burned.”

Jones isn't exaggerating. His father, who shares the same name as his son, described the path the fire took before it claimed his son's deck and porch area.

“It snaked its way down that side of the street,” the elder Jones said, pointing to charred homes across the street from his son's home.

“Then it headed down that way and snaked its way back here by 7 or 8 (Friday) night.”

Jones lost some sheds and other outbuildings to blaze, and one of his dogs was killed, as well. His home, on the other hand, suffered little interior damage, and he said he was fully insured.

“I feel lucky,” Jones said, looking around at what's left of his neighborhood. “We'll rebuild everything, but a lot of these people lost everything … and they don't have insurance.”

Only a few other properties in the heavily wooded neighborhood survived the blaze, which started Friday and continued to give Norman firefighters issues into Monday.

According to state emergency officials, wildfires in Cleveland County have burned 7,900 acres since Friday and claimed dozens of structures, including several homes in the hardest-hit rural areas.

A badly burned body was pulled from a house in the area Saturday.

Statewide, thousands and thousands of acres have burned as extreme drought conditions persist, making the possibility of more wildfires likely in the coming weeks.

Family's home leveled

Neal Wood, a longtime resident of Noble and the surrounding area, lost the home he shares with his wife, daughter and granddaughter.

Wood lives in the same neighborhood as Jones.

All that was left of Wood's two-story home was piles of ash and the misshapen remnants of appliances and file cabinets.

His daughter, Melissa Wood, went through the ash and pulled ceramic doll parts from the ground.

Sheets of melted aluminum and lead are a testament to the intensity of the fire.

“It has to get pretty hot to melt aluminum,” Neal Wood said.

Like Jones, the Woods have insurance and plan to rebuild.

“We lived here 18 years,” Neal Wood said.

“It's hard to come home and see your house like that, absolutely. But we plan to rebuild and change the style of the house.”

The Woods lost three indoor dogs to the wildfire. Five outside dogs were able to survive, somehow finding a place to ride out the firestorm that left trees resembling large pieces of charcoal.

Neal Wood said he had never been fearful of wildfires before Friday, although a nearby forest of red cedar trees had always concerned him.

“Never thought much about wildfires,” he said. “But we can see what they do. It's wrenching, I guess you could say.”

The Woods said they already had received a check to rebuild their home. Neal Wood said a temporary trailer is expected to arrive soon to give them a place to stay while a new residence is built.

“It's like losing a family member or a loved one,” he said. “When you first see it … it's kind of unbelievable.

“But we are luckier than most. We'll be OK.”

Andrew Knittle

Andrew Knittle has covered state water issues, tribal concerns and major criminal proceedings during his career as an Oklahoma journalist. He has won reporting awards from the state's Associated Press bureau and prides himself on finding a real... Read more ›

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