Despite Ban, Outdoor Burning Allowed In Oklahoma With County Permit

Wednesday, April 6th 2011, 9:16 pm
By: News On 6

Lacie Lowry, News On 6

INOLA, Oklahoma -- Even with burn bans in place, some Oklahoma counties allow people in the agricultural industry to burn outdoors.

The idea was to help farmers and ranchers preserve their livelihood and take care of their land, but one fire chief thinks that idea may be backfiring.

It's called a fire exemption permit and it's handled on a county by county basis.

The McFarlin Ingersoll Ranch in Inola has been burning land the past four weeks.

"You'll start seeing green within about a week," Joleta Spurlock, with McFarlin Ingersoll Ranch, said. "If we could get rain tonight, we'd probably see green tomorrow with the sunshine."

They're burning the entire ranch, all 11,000 acres. You can see different pastures in different stages of the burn process.

"A controlled burn is to clean pastures up, to clear undergrowth, to slow the growth of cool season grasses, so your warm season grasses have room to grow," Spurlock said.

On Wednesday, they took a break from burning.

"Too windy, too dry," Spurlock said.

Near Keystone, firefighters said those same words all day. News On 6 spoke with a captain with the volunteer fire department who surveyed the flames from SkyNews 6.

4/6/2011 Related Story: Keystone Fire Chief Surveys Wildfires From SkyNews6

"They gave the fire chiefs in the area the option if they saw fit that they could give an exemption," George Blackburn, Keystone Volunteer Fire Department, said.

George Blackburn says he's very suspicious of recent fires, including these that are still burning.

"We had some of the paperwork brought to us and I guess some people thought we were automatically going to sign it and we never have. That paperwork is still laying unsigned on the chief's desk," he said.

Keystone is now investigating whether the fire was caused by a burn under the exemption.

Back in Inola, they only burn when the wind blows less than 15 miles per hour.

"It's almost next to impossible to control everything with burning, but burning is better than nothing." Spurlock said.

The fire exemption lays out required precautions and conditions for a fire. Those with a plan must give a copy of it to local fire departments and keep a copy on site.

4/6/2011 Related Story: What To Do After A Wildfire Has Impacted Your Home, Neighborhood