DAWSON CITY, Okla.
— The U.S. government has been forced to shut down the state of Oklahoma for three days after more than 2,000 firefighters battled a blaze in a remote area west of the state capital.
State officials say the fire started Monday in the Dawson City area and spread to nearby homes and businesses.
The state says about 2,500 firefighters responded to the fire, but officials have not provided a total number of fatalities or damages.
A spokesman for the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management said Monday that the fire was a “total loss” and said the department was working to recover.
The Oklahoma Department on Monday said the fire had destroyed or damaged about 5,000 structures.
Firefighters battled the blaze Monday evening, but it was still active on Monday morning.
Fire Chief Greg Smith said he had received a call from a resident who was worried about his home, which was on fire and had lost power.
He said a second call came in from a man who was at the home when he heard a loud bang.
“I’m in the kitchen, and I hear my neighbor screaming, and then I hear fire,” Smith said.
“I saw flames, and flames went through the kitchen.”
The fire started in a nearby field and spread quickly to nearby structures, he said.
The fire was brought under control about 11:30 a.m.
Smith said he was thankful the fire didn’t spread to the homes in Dawson County because the blaze would have killed everyone inside.
The agency has ordered an evacuation order for Dawson County and ordered all residents to stay in their homes and avoid areas where fire is burning.
A statement released Monday by the state Department of Environmental Quality said the agency had been notified that firefighting equipment had been removed from a nearby building.
The state also said the number of people who died due to the fires in Dawson and nearby communities was more than 100, and that many of those people had been injured.
In an email to The Associated Press on Monday, a spokeswoman for the state department of environmental quality said the evacuation order was issued “to minimize damage to local communities.”
The U.N. agency that coordinates firefighting and rescue operations in the region also called the fire a “complete loss” because of the “severe damage” caused to structures and homes.
“The situation in Dawson has caused considerable distress and has caused a great deal of stress to local residents, businesses and emergency responders,” the statement said.