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Not-So-Controlled Burns Can Put Oklahoma Homes At Risk

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Controlled burns are common this time of year, but firefighters say those fires are too often not maintained, leaving homeowners in a panic. Controlled burns are common this time of year, but firefighters say those fires are too often not maintained, leaving homeowners in a panic.
Armed with a shovel, Mannford resident Marsha Looper, does the same thing every spring, protects her home from the flames of a wildfire. Armed with a shovel, Mannford resident Marsha Looper, does the same thing every spring, protects her home from the flames of a wildfire.
Freedom Hill Fire Captain, Carolyn Smythe. Freedom Hill Fire Captain, Carolyn Smythe.
CREEK COUNTY, Oklahoma -

It's been a busy week for many of our Green Country firefighters. In Creek County several wildfires have been burning for days, threatening many homes, and some people are blaming them on controlled burns.

Controlled burns are common this time of year, but firefighters say those fires are too often not maintained, leaving homeowners in a panic.

Armed with a shovel, Mannford resident Marsha Looper, does the same thing every spring, protects her home from the flames of a wildfire.

"They don't call it wildfire for nothing," Looper said. "Cause, I mean, they just come up so quick. And it's just amazing when it's up close and it's just scarier than all get out."

Looper has lived in Mannford's countryside for six years. Before that she was a city girl. Now, she's bloodied and bruised, looking over her burned up 40 acres, after a fight to save her house.

"There's a lot of briars, blackberry briars. I was saying real bad words out there," Looper said.

She's not the only one frustrated by the fires. Freedom Hill Fire Captain, Carolyn Smythe, said what angers her is, she believes a controlled burn is to blame. And she said volunteer departments, like hers, are left cleaning up the mess.

"Every year, without fail, Spring Break, we spend it taking care of controlled burns that aren't maintained well," Smythe said.

She said controlled burns are necessary, but said some of the large ranch operators in the area don't spend enough time monitoring the fire to make sure they don't re-ignite when the wind shifts.

"People don't realize how much maintenance goes into making sure that, even when they think that the fires out, it can still re-ignite. When winds changes and come out of a different direction, and blows on the brush piles, or logs, or root balls that aren't completely extinguished or put out yet," Smythe said.

It's a concern she said she's voiced numerous times. One she believes could give folks like Looper, a break on Spring Break.

"I love it out here, but it certainly has its dangers," Looper said.

The foreman of one of the ranches said his fire went exactly where it was supposed to. There are several different fire jurisdictions, and since no houses were destroyed, firefighters said we may never know the exact cause.

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