Multiple fire reports under investigation

Mar. 9—Chelsea Fire Department Chief Craig Sampson and Northwest Rogers County Fire Protection District Chief Mat Shockley are asking for public help in identifying the perpetrator(s) of a string of suspicious grass fires that have kept firefighters on high alert for several weeks across a three-county area.

The latest string of fires was reported in the northwestern part of Rogers County Monday, March 4, to the Northwest Fire District.

"If you see something, say something," Shockley said.

"We are just urging people to be aware of their surroundings. If you see a vehicle slow down and suddenly see smoke report it," Sampson said.

While it is time for the annual spring ritual of controlled burns by many farmers and ranchers, the report of 11 fires in one day in the NWFPD, between 4:21 p.m. and midnight last Monday, was out of the ordinary, Shockley said.

Rogers County Emergency Management has also posted a call for the public's help on its Facebook page, "Because of the proximity and timing of these fires, investigators are asking for the public's help with information that may lead to the cause and the nature of the fires."

Anyone with information can contact the fire departments directly: Chelsea, 918-923-4755; or Northwest, 918-443-2471.

Sampson said he hoped last week's rains might give rural firefighters a break. "Maybe get some sleep," he said.

"There were nine or 10 fires started in the span of seven days across Mayes, Rogers and Craig counties," Sampson said. Numerous fires are suspected to be arson.

In another 12-day period, Sampson said there were 14 grass fires. Many of those he called possible arson as they were started from the roadways like the 11 fires set Monday evening between the hours of 4 and midnight reported in the NWFPD.

Shockley said the first fire in that series of blazes was reported at north-south 4150 County Road and east-west 410 Road at 4:21 p.m., followed by three more reports along the roadway headed east, then another report around the corner on North 417. Reports continued throughout the evening in minute-by-minute increments all along the roadsides in a three-square-mile area.

At 8:29 p.m., Shockley said, it appeared whoever was setting the fires circled back near where the first blazes were reported.

"They were all on the passenger's side," Shockley said.

Shockley said it appears the last fire, around 11:39 p.m., may have been an anomaly, as it was across the highway.