NORMAN — Fires that swept through Cleveland County, taking one life and destroying dozens of homes, may have been intentionally set, according to preliminary findings by the State Fire Marshal’s Office.
“We’re asking for people to keep an eye out and report anything suspicious,” Norman Fire Chief James Fullingim said. “Anything you see that’s of a suspicious nature, we’d like to know about it.”
Investigators from the Fire Marshal’s Office and the Norman Fire Department are in the process of determining the cause of the fire that originated Friday. Fullingim said the fire marshal determined that there were three points of origin in close proximity that started Friday’s fire and, therefore, the cause is considered to be suspicious.
Additional suspicious fires in Norman have occurred since that time — two points of origin close together Sunday night, two Monday afternoon and another two Monday night. That’s six additional suspicious points of origin, resulting in three fires in addition to those that started the wildfires Friday.
“The possibility exists that these fires could be accidental in nature, but it’s suspicious when you have two fires that close together in time,” Fullingim said.
The dead vegetation is serving as an accelerant.
Other possible findings could have been accidental or arson. Suspicious fires indicate the possibility, rather than the certainty, of arson.
The Norman Fire Marshal’s Office, Norman Police Department and the Cleveland County Sheriffs Deputies will be patrolling the area and ask that residents report any suspicious activity to authorities at 321-1444.
Information provided that leads to an arrest may be eligible for a Norman Crime Stoppers reward of up to $1,000.
Norman firefighters continue working the fire. There are still hot spots and flare ups occurring, but the fire is contained. At least 3,000 acres have been burned, according to current estimates.
“We still don’t have a good estimate on the number of houses (burned),” Fullingim said. “We’ve been focusing our efforts on controlling the fire, and the fact that these fires are of a suspicious nature. So, the damage assessments are coming in slowly.”
Fullingim encourages everyone to be vigilant concerning outdoor fires.
“I want to remind our citizens that we are under a statewide burn-ban, and the use of outdoor fires is very limited,” he said.
The latest suspicious grass fires were contained quickly, caused no property damage and were all less than one acre in size. This is primarily the result of immediate reporting by residents, which allowed firefighters to contain the fires before they developed, according to city staff reports.
For more information, call the Norman Fire Department at 292-9780.
A Red Cross shelter at Slaughterville First Baptist Church, 10101 60th St., remains open for families and individuals displaced by the fires. A multi-agency resource center where people can connect with organizations prepared to lend assistance is open at Twelve Corners Baptist Church, 15601 E. Etowah Road, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.
Joy Hampton 366-3539 jhampton@ normantranscript.com