OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A ban on outdoor burning was extended Tuesday to 26 central and southern Oklahoma counties.
Gov. Frank Keating said Tuesday that he extended his original burn ban because drought conditions and triple-digit temperatures have created prime conditions for wildfires.
The additional counties bring to 44 the number of counties covered by the ban, including 18 that were named in Keating's original proclamation on July 20.
Thirty-three other counties, mostly in eastern and central Oklahoma, remain under a red flag fire alert.
``We are in desperate need of relief from the heat and drought,'' Keating said Tuesday. ``Consequently, I encourage Oklahomans of all faiths this upcoming Sunday to pray for rain.''
The burn ban makes it unlawful to set fires in forests, grasslands and marshes or to build campfires or burn trash outdoors.
Gas and charcoal grilling are exempt from the ban as are organized fireworks displays that are permitted by local municipalities or the State Fire Marshal's Office.
Small grain farmers who burn grain stubble are also exempt as long as they build fire lines, provide personnel and equipment to control the fire, notify their neighbors and meet other conditions.
A letter to Keating from Roger L. Davis, director of Forestry Services for the state Department of Agriculture, said the fire danger in the state is moving northeastward and that local fire departments are reporting increased activity.
``Most of these fires are being caused by human activity,'' Davis said. ``At the present only a few fires have escaped control to present problems, however with these conditions the risk of a large disastrous wildfire is very real.''
``I urge all Oklahomans to practice extreme caution during their outdoor activities,'' Keating said.
Counties added to the burn ban are Alfalfa, Beaver, Bryan, Canadian, Carter, Coal, Creek, Garfield, Garvin, Grant, Hughes, Johnston, Kay, Love, Major, Marshall, Murray, Okfuskee, Okmulgee, Pawnee, Pontotoc, Roger Mills, Seminole, Texas, Tulsa and Woodward.
The 18 counties covered by the original ban are Beckham, Blaine, Caddo, Comanche, Cotton, Custer, Dewey, Ellis, Grady, Greer, Harmon, Harper, Kiowa, Jackson, Jefferson, Stephens, Tillman and Washita.