Grass fire danger expected to spike Saturday

Friday, January 6th 2006, 11:38 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- The total acreage in Oklahoma burned by wildfires increased slightly Thursday as firefighters braced for what they expect to be a busy day on Saturday.

On Thursday, 30 fires were reported in Oklahoma, burning 1,500 acres, according to state fire information officer C.J. Norvell. Since Nov. 1, 363,341 acres have been burned, she said. About 220 homes have been destroyed and two people have been killed.

Norvell said the number of fires Thursday was the same as reported on Jan. 1, when 81,000 acres burned in one of the worst days during the recent outbreak of wildfires in Oklahoma.

"We've got people pre-positioned throughout the state so they're getting on (the fires) quickly and getting them out quickly," Norvell said.

State fire officials have said all week that Saturday looks to be a particularly high fire-danger day, with temperatures forecast to be in the 70s, with low humidity and high winds.

Saturday "will really be a test to see how we fare," Norvell said.

A state burn ban has been in effect since Nov. 15. Gov. Brad Henry expanded it Thursday to include prohibitions of campfires and outdoor charcoal grilling and stricter requirements on outdoor welding.

"We need people to continue to be diligent," Norvell said. "I know it might be tempting to get outside and do some things that might initiate a spark, but if they can just bear with us, this will not last forever."

National Weather Service forecaster Bruce Thoren in Norman said the winds could gust as high as 30 or 35 mph on Saturday.

The seven-day forecast remains dry.

"January and February are two of our drier months anyway, with maybe about one and one-half inches a month," Thoren said. "But even if we got back to normal, that would help."