Hot, Dry Weather Triggers Burn Bans In Oklahoma

Friday, August 27th 2010, 5:14 pm
By: News On 6

By Craig Day, The News On 6

UNDATED -- The lack of rain and dangerously dry conditions are prompting burn bans in some parts of Oklahoma.

Burn bans are in effect in Latimer and Cherokee Counties, and more Oklahoma counties are expected to be added to the list.

8/26/2010  Related Story: Drought Conditions Prompt Burn Bans In Eastern Oklahoma

"Throughout the state, you know, we may get an inch here, but a mile down the road, it never rain a drop," said Jamie Houston, a firefighter.

In many parts of Oklahoma, volunteer firefighters are keeping up a busy pace.

"We're running all the time here lately," Martin Webb, Welling Fire Chief, said.

It's hot. It's dry. And it's a challenge when conditions are so perfect for potential trouble.

"It's a tinderbox," Houston said.

Jamie Houston is a volunteer with the Keys fire district in Cherokee County, where crews have had seven fires like in the past week.

"Oh, it can get dangerous in a hurry," he said.

It's the same story all across Cherokee County, where some areas haven't seen decent rain in a month. East of Tahlequah, in Welling, what started as a trash fire ended up scorching several hundred acres.

"Went for about a mile and a half, right up to the next two section lines," Webb said.

Seven fire departments worked to put the fire out. The extreme fire danger has prompted a burn ban for Cherokee County.

"It's only going to get worse if we don't," Webb said.

The decision is based on forest service criteria, including little soil moisture, the lack of significant rain chances in the forecast and an abundance of dry vegetation.

"It's just breaking off," Houston said. "We could throw a match down here and the field would be up before we knew it."

Firefighters said since most of the fires they are responding to are controlled burns that become uncontrolled, they're optimistic the burn ban will make a difference at least until we get more rain.

"We're all hoping and praying," Webb said.

The burn bans in Cherokee and Latimer Counties are in effect for 30 days, but could be rescinded if we get enough rainfall.

Violators could face a fine of up to $500 and a year in jail.