Rogers County officials yesterday voted to extend the county-wide burn ban through next Monday, March 20, due to the continued high fire danger potential.
The burn ban, made active in Rogers County more than a week ago, was in part a response to dry conditions leading to a surge in wildfires in northwest Oklahoma, responsible for destroying approximately 340,000 acres, and being responsible for fatalities, as well.
Verdigris Fire Chief Mike Shaffer led a group of firefighters from Claremore Fire Department, Verdigris and Limestone Fire Protection Districts assisting in fighting fires in the northwest Oklahoma area.
Rogers County Emergency Management director Scotty Stokes updated county commissioners during their regular board meeting on Monday.
A previous update from Stokes lead to the initial burn ban being issued in Rogers County on March 3.
“We have had cooler weather and some rain recently…but I think we should wait another week before lifting the ban,” Stokes said, adding that pastures should not “green up” too much within a week’s time.
Commissioner Dan DeLozier of District 1 inquired if fire departments throughout the county have offered any feedback on current conditions or on the burn ban.
“They are up in the air — we could continue with the ban until next week, let it go until the end of next week or cancel it,” Stokes said.
“I have not heard of any other counties around us cancelling and (their burn ban) have stayed in tact,” said District 3 Commissioner Ron Burrows.
Also present was Donna Patterson with the Rogers County Oklahoma State University Extension office, who said she felt it was a good time for “prescribed fires.”
Prescribed fires are fires which help reduce the amount of damage of wildfire on our lands and surrounding communities by safely reducing excessive amounts of brush, shrubs and trees.
“People who are trained and know how to do it know they have certain ‘wind’ windows they need to operate in,” she said. “We encourage everybody who does prescribed fires to use OK Fire (online at http://okfire.mesonet.org/), which allows them to set perimeters and tells them which day they can burn.”
There are benefits and risks involved when managing pastures with prescribed burns, Patterson said.
“It’s necessary to burn and is the best thing for native pastures,” she said. “When you get into a situation where nobody burns, that creates a lot of fuel, and that is when you create the wildfire situation.”
The burn ban does not prevent agricultural businesses from burning, but they must file and follow a burn plan with their local fire department, Stokes said.
Burning pastures under a prescribed fire plan that is properly timed and well-managed will reduce or eliminate fire outbreaks.
Stokes emphasized how important firebreaks or firelines are during a prescribed burn to prevent fires from escaping into other fueled areas, such as wooded areas or open pastures.
“Obviously, on windy days those who know what to do and how to do it would not be burning,” Patterson said.
Commissioners will bring this topic back up in the next board meeting at 9 a.m. on Monday, March 20, at the Rogers Coutny Courthouse.