Oklahoma Wildfires Spark Air Quality Concerns

Thursday, March 3rd 2011, 5:22 pm
By: News On 6

Craig Day, News On 6

VIVIAN, Oklahoma -- Firefighters across Oklahoma hope we get some much needed rain. Wildfires are a big concern right now and so are breathing problems from all of the smoke.

With the warm temperatures, high wind, and dry conditions grassfire's are becoming a more common scene in Oklahoma: smoky sky, scorched earth. Flames pushed rapidly by the wind.

Some are controlled burns, others aren't. They all prompt action by firefighters trying to gain the upper hand and protect homes and livestock.

It's fire season in Oklahoma and it is dangerously dry. Roger Burns lives in Vivian in McIntosh County. He says now is not a good time to burn.

"We've been getting rain, but ever since it rained, the wind will blow and dry it out," said Roger Burns.

Those conditions have many volunteer firefighters across Oklahoma on pins and needles, including Vivian Area Fire Association Chief Robert Lane.

"Fire is good. But when they don't listen to the weather people and when the wind gets up to 10 to 15 miles an hour, you've got a fire danger," said Chief Robert Lane.

It's not just that those flames threaten homes and property; there's another concern that state leaders have, and that's the smoke from all of these fires. It's prompted the State Department of Environmental Quality to issue health advisories.

Those health advisories are in effect for Pittsburg, Pushmataha and Atoka Counties. Children and the elderly and those with respiratory or heart disease are urged to avoid prolonged outdoor activities because of the smoke.

The remainder of Southeastern Oklahoma and the central section of the state are under a moderate health risk.

The bottom line is, it's hard for many people to breathe, and it can also be tough on firefighters and equipment.

"That old, tall sage grass - it gets started, it goes," said Vivian Fire Chief Robert Lane.

So people across Oklahoma are urged to use caution and common sense until conditions improve.

"It's not a good idea to burn right now; it's too dry and windy," said Vivian resident Roger Burns.

Burn bans are in effect for 22 counties in Oklahoma right now, mostly in central, western and southwestern Oklahoma. But everyone statewide should avoid burning right now, especially with it being so dry and windy.