WOODWARD, Okla. — The city of Woodward was mourning Wednesday after an early morning fire killed six people.
One other person in the mobile home was hospitalized in Oklahoma City. Names of the victims, who included adults and children, were not released by fire officials.
1000 Hills Ranch Church had an evening service for the victims Wednesday evening at Living Word Fellowship in Woodward.
“It’s imperative that we lean upon the promises and the power and the living God, which is the purposes of this vigil,” pastor John Paul said. “We all go through tragedy in life, but few experience tragedy of this magnitude that this family is going through at this time. There’s no amount of worldly resources that will be able to sustain or heal this family.”
Paul is calling for the church community to step up and be the hands, the feet, the eyes, the ears, the broken heart to love on this family.
“This family leaves such a huge footprint in our community ... in unbelievable ways,” Paul said.
While needs still are unknown in the freshness of the wake of this tragedy, Paul asked people to stand by to be ready to supply whatever needs arise as the community keeps the family in their immediate prayers.
“I’m very concerned for our firefighters. I’m concerned for the families that are involved,” Ministerial Alliance President and Nazarene Church pastor Nathan Twyman said. “We’ll get behind whatever needs to be set up as far as fundraisers or something like that if that needs to happen, we’ll be all-in. I don’t know of anything to do other than to be praying for the family.”
Woodward firefighters were deeply affected by the tragedy, Woodward Fire Department Chief Todd Finley said.
“You know, 25 years of fire service and I don’t know, five years as a cop and everything, I’ve never seen anything or participated in anything so devastating,” Finley said. “My main focus, my main concern is the mental wellness of our firefighters.”
WFD firefighters had recently assisted with a Waynoka fire that killed four people, and that experience still was fresh in in their minds.
“This has really kind of hit hard,” Finley said. “One of the first things we did before it was even daylight was, we got a hold of our fire chaplain and one of the police department’s chaplains to come to our station to be available for our guys.”
A Critical Incident Stress Debriefing Team has been scheduled to come in from Oklahoma City on Thursday.
“It’s something that we really take seriously, and we really want our guys to have a good quality of life when they retire,” Finley said. “It’s kind of hard when they’re used to nothing but death and devastation. So, I feel it’s imperative that we work toward having a good mental health, wellness program.”
Woodward Public Schools counselors have mobilized the Crisis Response Team and the Ministerial Alliance to make sure students and staff have the support they need to work through this tragic event, according to Woodward Public School Superintendent Kyle Reynolds.
“Our Boomer family is devastated at the loss of life and injuries from the recent tragedy,” Reynolds said. “Our prayers are with the family and all those affected.”
The fire call came in at 1:17 a.m. Wednesday to 1120 Kansas in Woodward for a structure fire in a single-wide mobile home. Six individuals, adults and juveniles, were lost in the tragedy, according to Woodward Fire Department Fire Chief Todd Finley.
Shift Captain David Bates was first on the scene.
“The house was about three quarters involved,” Finley said. “Fire was coming out of windows and doors.”
After a quick survey of the area and situation, Bates and a bystander saved one juvenile after knocking a window air-conditioner out of a window and entering the burning structure.
“Afterwards, the fire crews showed up. They put a ladder in that window, and he had them directed to go inside,” Finley said. “They opened the door go into the interior part of that house, and the heat was so hot it was starting to melt their face shields.”
The department crew was forced to evacuate.
“Unfortunately, we weren’t able to rescue anyone else out of the structure,” Finely said. “It was a no-win situation from the beginning. We were so fortunate that we got at least one saved.”
Local Fire Marshal Michael Wickware is working with the State Fire Marshal’s Office to find the origin of the fire.
“Which is pretty standard whenever we have a fatality fire,” Finley said. “We can get a little bit more information on exactly what started it why. As far as the victims, we’re waiting for them to be identified by the ME’s (Medical Examiner) office, and all the family to be notified before we release identification.”
Finley said he is optimistic about the one victim taken to the emergency room at AllianceHealth Woodward and then transferred to a hospital in Oklahoma City.
According to Finley, fire deaths across the state have rising this year and the percentage of homes without smoke detectors has been high. It’s unknown whether smoke detectors were available in the home, but he wanted to stress that the department’s Public Education Officer Melissa Hobbs distributes free smoke detectors for those who can’t afford them.
“We really encourage people to check your smoke detector,” Finley said. “If you don’t have one to get one ... it is so important that people take the time to do that.”