State lifts outdoor burn ban after weekend rains

Monday, October 16th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- A statewide ban on outdoor burning was lifted Monday after a weekend of heavy rainfall across Oklahoma.

With Gov. Frank Keating out of the state, Lt. Gov. Mary Fallin signed the order lifting the ban, which had been in effect since Sept. 13.

Officials left a Red Flag Fire Alert in effect for 34 counties in the Panhandle and large sections of southeast and southwest Oklahoma.

The alert allows outdoor burning, but urges citizens to use extreme caution when dealing with lighted materials.

The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture's Forestry Services Division decided it was safe to lift the ban after analyzing rainfall totals across Oklahoma.

Dan Mahoney, a spokesman for Keating's office, said forestry officials had been in contact with fire departments and emergency management officials from across Oklahoma and determined the rainfall was plentiful enough to allow the lifting of the ban.

He said the decision was not made lightly.

"The governor was as thrilled as anyone to see the rain but we have to rely on the expertise of the Forestry Services Division,"

Mahoney said.

"We wanted to lift the ban as much as anyone, we just needed to make sure it was safe to do that."

Rains totaling more than 1 inch in several cities and more than 2 inches in Norman fell in a massive storm system that moved across the state Sunday.

Mahoney said public pressure to lift the ban was nominal, adding that he thought most people understood the reason for the ban following last month's grassfires, which destroyed dozens of homes.

The rain was helpful for farmers in western Oklahoma, where wheat farmers dry-planted crops in hopes of significant rainfall later.

Enough rain has fallen for wheat to start sprouting up in the fields, but more is needed, Oklahoma Cooperative Extension agronomist Roger Gribble said.

"We're gonna need a little more rain to sustain good growth,"

Gribble said.

A thunderstorm at noon Sunday in Ellis County dumped rain and high winds and hail near Catesby. No damage was reported, an Ellis County Sheriff's dispatcher said.

Storm clouds dumped between .10 and .60 inches of rain in the Panhandle, with most of it falling in Texas County near Guymon, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Amarillo, Texas, said.

Storms also moved across Okmulgee County, but no damage was reported.

Mahoney said reinstatement of the burn ban this year is unlikely because the year's hottest, driest weather is over.

"It's always possible but everything I've heard is we're past the peak of the dry season," Mahoney said. "There's a lot more moisture in the air and ground. I wouldn't figure we'd have another one of these (this year), but you never know."

The counties covered under the Red Flag Alert are: Adair, Atoka, Beaver, Beckham, Bryan, Caddo, Cherokee, Choctaw, Cimarron, Coal, Comanche, Cotton, Delaware, Greer, Haskell, Harper, Harmon, Jackson, Jefferson, Kiowa, Latimer, LeFlore, Love, Marshall, Mayes, McCurtain, Pittsburg, Pushmataha, Sequoyah, Stephens Texas, Tillman, Washita and Woods.