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Cache homes destroyed by flames

CACHE  Fire claimed two homes, endangered even more property and sent a coalition of Comanche County firefighters into a fight against time to stave off catastrophe in Cache on Tuesday.

Firefighters were first called at 1:44 p.m. to the neighborhood around the Oklahoma 115 on-ramp to U.S. 62 on Cache's north side and found two structures in flames. Calls for reinforcements quickly followed, Cache Fire Chief John Bowers said. In the end, two structures were left "unlivable," he said, and a camper and vehicle were burned up but no injuries were reported. He was unsure if the homes were occupied.

Drivers on U.S. 62 shortly after 2 p.m. saw the sky marked by a plume of smoke. By the time they reached the Deyo Mission Road exit, two large columns plumed up and draped south  one filled with rolling white smoke, the other  black as charcoal  rose higher and weighed over the other as they stretched and scattered smoke south. In the neighborhoods below, the haze of brown gray smoke held thick. 

With west-northwest winds over 20 mph and heavier gusts, flames flickered and lit dry grass between homes, sending the fire scooting fast toward nearby neighborhoods.

"It's pretty tough," Bowers said of the wind. "It played havoc with trying to control it, what with the wind gusts in between homes that pushed it hard toward houses."

Firefighters worked to cap the flame along U.S. 62's eastbound lanes; an outbuilding along the northern fence line was lost to flames and high winds blew its burned remnants away from the deteriorating frame. Charred grassland curved along the on-ramp and Lawton rookie firefighters  identified by their green helmets  battled a structure fire on Long Street; the home was lost but the fire was diverted from other homes.

Other fire trucks snaked through the neighborhood with dozens of houses and mobile homes. Although the flames burned close, little major damage resulted. 

Traffic was diverted from the Oklahoma 115 exit, and the on-ramp was closed for a little over an hour. An incident command center was set up at the Cache Trading Post on Oklahoma 115, across the street from the threatened neighborhood. Inside the smoke curtain from Oak and Cherry streets, flashing emergency lights illuminated dozens of locations where first responders maneuvered to help. 

A home at the intersection of 6th Street and Oak Avenue was lost to the fire, bringing the total structures lost to two. Firefighters battled flames and contained them to the site once the roof collapsed. 

A second call of a fire reported near Deyo Mission Road turned out to be false, the fire chief said. 

Bowers said his Cache volunteer firefighters were joined in battle by Indiahoma, Chattanooga, Geronimo and Valley View's volunteer departments, as well as the Comanche Nation/Bureau of Indian Affairs, Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge and Fort Sill fire crews. Comanche County Memorial Hospital held ambulances at the ready and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Comanche County Sheriff's Department and Cache police helped control the scene. 

The Lawton Constitution

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