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Oklahoma Wildfires Leave Unpredictable Path Of Destruction

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MANNFORD, Okla. (AP) — The fields around Connie Laxton's home in Oklahoma were black with ash Monday after a roaring wildfire tore across her property and ran right up to her gray, brick ranch home — where it suddenly stopped.

The fire line is marked in the grass a foot from house, and the smell of smoke permeates the inside. One side of the three 40-foot pear trees in the yard is charred gray and black, the other is leafy and green.

The wildfire that burned through her area outside Mannford is one of more than a dozen that have hopscotched across Oklahoma since Friday, leaving only ashes in some spots, while property just feet away looks remarkably untouched. In some cases, the flames shifted with the wind, while in others, streams or ponds forced a detour.

Laxton credits the pear trees with saving her house, figuring they blocked sparks flying through the area from hitting the roof.

"I went through a tornado in '84, and it took our house, but we've never seen anything like this," she said.

The fires are blamed for at least one death. Amy Elliott, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma medical examiner's office, said it has requested dental records to identify a body firefighters found Saturday in a home in Norman.

The area had been evacuated after a wildfire erupted Friday, and some residents weren't allowed to return until Sunday. That fire burned about 12.5 square miles and 25 structures, including some homes, in Cleveland County.

Elliott said the body was found in a home ravaged by the fire, and the medical examiner's office has yet to determine the age or gender of the victim.

Keli Cain, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management, said all the fires were either under control or in "mop-up" stages early Monday afternoon.

One, which threatened the small town of Luther over the weekend, is being investigated as a possible arson. Witnesses told Oklahoma County sheriff's deputies they saw a man throwing a lighted newspaper from a black Ford pickup, but no arrests have been made.

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Associated Press writer Sean Murphy in Oklahoma City contributed to this report.

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