Firefighters On High Alert After Oklahoma Counties Issue Burn Bans

Tuesday, January 21st 2014, 7:11 pm
By: Craig Day

Nearly a dozen Oklahoma counties now have burn bans in effect, with most of those going into effect on Tuesday.

The bans range from seven days to a full month.

Conditions have firefighters on high alert. With the threat so high right now, firefighters are urging caution and prevention.

1/21/2014 Related Story: More Oklahoma Counties Issue Burn Bans

With 214 square miles to protect, most of it rural, firefighters with the Northwest Rogers County fire district are on alert, just like firefighters across Oklahoma.

Chief David Puckett said, "On days like this we're on the ready, we're in a state of readiness."

Plenty of Spring rain, now means there is plenty of fuel for wildfires. Tall grass combined with strong winds and low humidity increases the danger.

Firefighter Luke Baines, said, "We had a fire this past week where the winds were blowing, 30, 35 miles per hour and we'd be chasing it to Kansas if the field on the North side of it had not been tilled and it was nothing but dirt."

Seven additional Oklahoma Counties now have burn bans in place, including Latimer, Payne and McIntosh Counties. Pittsburg County's burn ban, issued Friday, will run at least three more days.

Puckett anticipates even more counties considering burn bans.

"I look for us to start talking about that in the near future also," said Puckett.

With conditions so ideal for fires to spread rapidly, which happened over the weekend, destroying a home near Skiatook, firefighters say there are some steps homeowners can take to lessen the risk.

It starts with creating a zone around your home, where grass is cut short and anything flammable, like tree debris, is removed.

"Even leaves, leaves that are built up against the house, get those away from the house," said Baines.

It's also good to prune trees six to ten feet off the ground, so it's harder for flames to climb them. Firefighters say it's all about eliminating fuel sources.

"The taller the vegetation, the more intense the fire will be, the wider spread a fire will be," Puckett said. "When I say wider spread, they carry for 30, 40, 50 feet ahead of themselves with strong winds."

Firefighters say you can help them, by making sure driveways have at least 15 feet of vertical clearance, so fire trucks can have easy access.

Also, make sure your street name and house number are easy to see for emergency crews.