High Fire Dangers Draining Energy, Resources, From OK Volunteer Stations
MANNFORD, Oklahoma - The fire danger across Oklahoma is high, and the News On 6 weather team says strong winds, dry conditions and the increasingly warm weather this week is, unfortunately, the perfect recipe for grass fires.
It's already been a busy fire season and has drained energy and resources for some of the smaller volunteer departments.
Flames moving through grasslands are a scene that has many growing weary. Emily Warner saw that scene come to a stop, just feet away from her doorstep.
“We're tired. It's hard, and everyone's somewhat fearful,” she said. “It came through and it was way faster than anyone thought. It burned all the way around my house; the third time in three years.”
The worst of the fire in this spot near Carson Ridge Road is out, but $10,000 worth of Darrell Harger hay bales are still smoldering.
“It's very devastating to see everything you've worked for in the summer go up in smoke and you're depending on it,” he said.
Warner and Harger said the fire burned for close to 24 hours. They credit neighbors and the Freedom Hill Volunteer Fire department for stopping the flames from spreading any more.
“It's priceless, and my dear neighbor on the next ridge has saved my house twice...thanks, Travis,” Warner said. “It's just what people do.”
About 20 miles away, the wind is fanning flames in Keystone's fire district.
Former Keystone Fire Chief George Blackburn, who still helps out as a driver, said the volunteer department has answered 21 fire calls in February alone.
“There hasn't been a day or night that the pagers haven't gone off,” Blackburn said.
The department spent more than 16 hours fighting a grass fire that started Saturday then stretched into Sunday.
“No one said a word about being tired, or ‘I don't want to go.’ They got back in trucks and went out and started fighting fire again,” Blackburn said.
And with another week of dangerous fire weather, worn out or not, firefighters will be suiting up, ready to do it all over again; their only paycheck, appreciation.
Blackburn said, “And you save their life, or you saved their property or their house, that's when we get our payment.”
It's unclear why any of the fires started. Some homeowners believe the cause could be from careless burning.
Right now no burn ban is in effect. The county commissioners follow state guidelines on when they can issue a ban but said the conditions over the next few days will likely justify a burn ban.