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5 years later: Remembering the Mannford fires

The ferocious fires in August 2012 burned around 58,000 acres and destroyed around 400 homes (KTUL).

The countryside of Mannford has become a retreat for Leon Mears. His front porch is perfectly positioned to just sit back and listen.

“I just like to watch [the birds]," Mears said. "They’re fun to watch. You can sit out here, and they come every day all the time."

As he watched the birds dance around his home, there’s a view he can’t shut out. Barren trees are visible scars across the green landscape. The countless trees are a reminder of the wildfires that tore through Mannford five years ago. At the time, smoke shut out the sun, and even the birds he loved listening to were quiet.

“I thought, I’m in good shape, I will make it all right,” Mears said. “When I got home, the wind changed, and it was heading this way. I knew then it was bad news.”

In a span of 30 minutes, Mears lost everything. His home was burned to the ground.

“I’m 70 years old, 71 years old," Mears said. "I’d gathered stuff for years. There wasn’t nothing to look for, wasn’t nothing standing but the gun safe and the refrigerator.”

The ferocious fires in August 2012 burned around 58,000 acres and destroyed around 400 homes. At times, it was uncontrollable and left people helpless as they watched their homes burn.

“I was pissed off," said Wes Lackey. "I didn’t have a clue. I was angry." He says he asked God "Why?"

Lackey completely lost his home in the fires, but he found something else: faith. For Lackey, the fires were like a biblical cleansing, and they provided a change to the path his life had taken.

“Really neat to know that, from the TV it looked like this was hell, but it really wasn’t that bad," Lackey said. “I’m back on my feet and I’m able to help other people."

Lackey runs the hardware store in Mannford. He said when he took it over years ago, he learned how to repair broken tools in a couple of months. It took a little longer when it came to fixing his faith.

“No matter what it is, no matter how dark it is, keep looking. It’s there,” Lackey said.

Back in the countryside, Mears rocks on his porch swing.

“I rebuilt the house," he said. "I built it up higher so I could see farther."

Though the burned down trees are now part of his view, Mears chooses to look for the birds.

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