Grass Fires Scorch Green Country

Monday, February 19th 2007, 4:30 pm
By: News On 6

Grass Fires return to Green Country! Warm temperatures, combined with high winds, have helped to spark fires across the state. Red Flag warnings have already been issued across much of Southwest Oklahoma, as well as western parts of our viewing area, including Payne, Logan and Lincoln counties. News on 6 reporter Chris Wright reports until the winds die down, officials urge you to wait to burn.

Snow and ice postponed their return, but grass fires roared back into Green Country Monday. A dozen fire crews battled a fire Northwest of Liberty. Burning hay sparked the blaze that scorched 60 acres, but no structures were destroyed.

SkyNews 6 was on the scene and lent a helping hand taking Liberty Fire Chief Lee Johnson above the fire where he directed crews and surveyed damage. And it wasn’t just the fire that was a problem for firefighters; Johnson explains why muddy fields made getting the fire under control difficult.

"The closer you get to the ponds, the softer it gets. So we've got four and six wheel vehicles stuck," he said.

Mark Goller, the Assistant Director of the Forestry Department, continues to monitor the situation. After studying upcoming weather patterns and talking to the National Weather Service, Goller then makes Red Flag warning recommendations to the Department of Agriculture. He says it may be a while before it is safe to burn again.

"So we've got a band of dryer air coming across the state that will make the fire danger increase, the fire intensity will correspondingly increase as well," Goller said.

Goller says this winter's snow and ice storms may prove to be both a blessing and a curse. The storms left more moisture in the ground, so grass fires should be less of a hazard this year. But there are also all those tree limbs everyone is eager to get rid of, meaning more people are likely to burn their debris. Combine that with the warm weather that is expected all week, and Goller worries that this could be just the beginning.

"If the rain shuts off, and we get into a dry pattern, we can expect a very busy few weeks,” he said.

While a Red Flag warning has not been issued for the Tulsa area, officials still recommend getting in touch with your local fire department to see if it is safe to burn.