Firefighters battling a large wildfire in northwestern Oklahoma caught a break Thursday from diminished winds, but forecasters warned that other areas of the Midwest are at risk for pop-up fires because of dry air and strong gusts.
The Oklahoma fire has burned nearly 90 square miles of mostly rangeland in an area about 170 miles northwest of Oklahoma City. On Wednesday, wind gusts of 50 mph made it difficult for firefighters to establish containment lines for the blaze, Oklahoma Forestry Services spokeswoman Hannah Anderson said.
"It became the perfect recipe for erratic fire behavior," Anderson said.
But winds, while still noticeable, weakened Thursday morning in northwest Oklahoma, and Anderson said crews are hopeful they can make progress battling the blaze, which is 20 percent contained.
One firefighter suffered heat exhaustion but no other injuries have been reported.
Wildfires have also burned at least 18 square miles in Kansas and about 20 square miles in the western Nebraska Sandhills region. The Storm Prediction Center said an area covering more than 120,000 square miles in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma is at a critical risk for wildfires on Thursday. A red flag warning is in effect for those areas, which could see temperatures in the 60s and wind gusts of up to 50 mph, forecasters said.