Tulsa State Fair officials worry about effect of burn ban, but some firefighters going home

Tuesday, September 26th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

The rain that fell on parts of Oklahoma over the weekend wasn't enough to cancel a statewide burn ban, but it was enough to give Tulsa Fire Capt. Shawn Randall and other firefighters in the state a much-needed break.

"We got what we were wishing for," said Randall, who added that his department hasn't been called to a grass fire since Saturday morning. "The rain was a big help to us. But, you know, we could use a little more of it."

State officials agreed and reiterated on Monday that the ban would not be lifted, despite a good soaking over a good part of the state.

The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture's forestry division would recommend to Gov. Frank Keating whether to lift the burn ban, but Roger Davis, director of the forestry division, said his agency isn't ready to do that.

Davis said Monday that a single rain event followed by warm days with low humidity and high winds would draw moisture out of leaves, pine needles, grasses and weeds, and make them fire hazards like the ones seen during last week's devastating series of blazes.

And, while places like Wister received about 3.5 inches and Norman got 2.79 inches of rain, places like Guthrie only received .09 inches, and .01 inches of rain fell in Burbank and Grandfield.

The continuation of the burn ban isn't just putting a damper on people's cookout plans. Officials with the Tulsa State Fair are worried about how the ban might limit what kind of food vendors will be able to cook when the event begins Thursday.

"Frankly, right now we don't know how it will affect us,"

state fair spokeswoman Lorry Roberts said Monday. "We've never had that situation, at least not in recent history."

Fair officials will consult with state authorities to decide how to handle the burn ban, Roberts said.

Along with the rain came a drastic drop in temperatures, which was felt most keenly in the Oklahoma Panhandle.

Charles Strasia, an area livestock specialist for the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service in Goodwell, said the area doesn't usually get a freeze for another two to three weeks.

"Last week I remember it being 98 at my house on Tuesday, and the next day I was on a ranch near Boise City and it was in the 40s and blowing," said Strasia, a Guymon resident.

Lows temperatures dipped to 29 degrees in Boise City and Goodwell early Monday. The mercury fell to 30 degrees in Beaver and 31 degrees in Hooker, the National Weather Service reported.

According to the Oklahoma Climatological Survey, early freezes have occurred only 10 percent of the time between 1961 and 1990.

As for the rain, it has allowed fire crews to contain fires and consider going home.

Albert Ashwood, director of the state Department of Civil Emergency Management, said help from Kansas and Texas and some U.S.

Forest Service firefighters have been sent home.

Officials in Ashwood's office will meet Tuesday with firefighters and others in the Arbuckle Mountains area to decide if some out-of-state firefighters there can be sent home, he said.

"We have to be very leery because some parts of the state received very little rain," he said.