Dealing with Oklahoma's grass fire season

Tuesday, November 8th 2005, 11:14 am
By: News On 6

Dry, windy conditions are keeping Oklahoma under a red flag fire alert, with a high potential for grass fires, fires that stretch many fire departments to the limit.

Sapulpa firefighters have responded to 20 grassfires in less than a week. As News on Six anchor Tami Marler says they are about to get some help.

Sapulpa Fire Department's new recruits are training for what's already turning out to be a busy season. It's certainly not all fun and games. Only a month on the job, and they've have already been out on a half-dozen grass fires.

For example, last week, a fire took 23 vehicles and more than 70 firefighters several hours to contain.

The winner of a time-trial was new recruit Maurice Hooks, who says the hands-on training keeps them sharp. "Well you just gotta be ready at any time. As soon as we hear the bell goes off, the quicker we're ready, the quicker we're there to respond." Sapulpa Fire Chief Jackie Carner: "vehicle accidents, house fires, grass fires, the response time is that critical issue that makes the difference literally in life and death."

Carner says Sapulpa's average response time is currently between 8 and 9 minutes and when you're battling to save lives and property, every second counts.

Carner says this year's dry conditions have not made it any easier and he predicts, it's about to get worse. "So even rains that we get are not going to moisten the grass from the roots up, it's just going to cover it with moisture. We're just going to be in the same situation. So I think we're going to have problems with this until we get into the springtime."

Carner says once construction crews finish station number #4 in January, response times in north Sapulpa will be cut in half, from nearly 9 minutes to fewer than 4 minutes.

Chief Carner has some important safety tips. First and foremost, don't do any outdoor burning for any reason until we get some rain, and the winds die down. If you start a fire that harms someone else, you can be held liable. Also, keep your landscaping trimmed so there's less fuel to burn.