Oklahoma Casinos Evacuated Because of Wildfire Threat: Report

Posted on: February 28, 2024, 01:09h. 

Last updated on: February 28, 2024, 11:18h.

Two Oklahoma tribal gaming properties were forced to temporarily evacuate Tuesday evening because of high winds and spreading flames from what was described by officials as a “large wildfire.”

Native Lights Casino
The Native Lights Casino, pictured above. A wildfire threatened the property. (Image: Tonkawa Casinos)

Visitors at Native Lights Casino and 7 Clans First Council Casino Hotel, both in Newkirk, Oklahoma, were ordered to leave as the wildfire spread near the border with Kansas, according to the Courier Traveler, a Kansas news outlet.

On Tuesday evening, officials sent out an emergency alert to those at the casinos who were in the path of the spreading wildfire.

[The] Initial fire path was in direct lines towards 7 Clans and Native Lights Casinos,” the Kay County Emergency Management warning revealed.

Some residents living in Chilocco near the casinos were also ordered to evacuate.

As of Tuesday evening, the wildfire was located north of Newkirk near Chilocco, close to the Kansas-Oklahoma border. At about 8:30 p.m., the Oklahoma Office of Emergency Management predicted a wildfire spreading into Kay County.

Smoke and flames could have led to poor visibility, and traffic may have come to a stop because of hazardous conditions, emergency officials warned.

Firefighters Stop Path of Flames

As they battled the flames, firefighters in Oklahoma and Kansas were able to keep the wildfire from reaching the two gaming properties.

Crews are still fighting high wind and blowing embers which could still cause additional fires that could grow,” local emergency officials warned. “Tentatively there is not additional threats to the casinos.”

Initially, Newkirk residents were encouraged to evacuate from their neighborhoods.

An initial warning told residents to relocate to eastern locations. Otherwise, they could get injured or trapped, according to the Courier Traveler.

But by 8:54 p.m. Tuesday, Newkirk Fire Chief Adam Longcrie suspended the Newkirk evacuation order.

The wildfire became a threat after a cold front arrived in the region on Tuesday afternoon. Temperatures fell about 50 degrees and northerly wind gusts led to risky conditions for wildfires. Residents in the region complained about smoky conditions during the late afternoon.

7 Clans Casinos are owned and operated by the Otoe-Missouria Development Authority, a branch of the Otoe-Missouria Tribe of Indians. Native Lights Casino is owned and operated by the Tonkawa Tribe of Oklahoma.

Nearby Wildfires

Elsewhere in Oklahoma, officials ordered evacuations in the Gage and Shattuck region because of large wildfires traveling across northwestern Oklahoma, according to Oklahoma TV station KOCO.

The Northwestern Oklahoma wildfires led to injuries, property damage, and closed roads.

As of Tuesday, Oklahoma Forestry Services reported some 32 uncontained fires across the state. More than 30K acres burned because of wildfire flames, according to the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management.