Rogers County is one of only a handful of Oklahoma’s 77 counties not currently under a burn ban, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a significant risk of fire danger said Emergency Management Director Bob Anderson.
“The danger is real right now,” said Anderson.
A majority of the county fire chiefs believe a ban is in order, but there are specific criteria that must be met before county commissioners can declare the ban.
“We’re close and we’re monitoring the situation,” said District 1 County Commissioner Dan DeLozier. “When that check list is complete, we will call for a burn ban.”
Anderson described Rogers County at a moderate moisture content. High temperatures and low moisture across the state have led numerous county commissioners and Governor Mary Fallin to ban outdoor burning due to the high fire danger.
Fallin issued an Executive Proclamation banning outdoor burning for the western half of the state. Oklahoma Forestry Services, a division of the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, recommended the ban based upon an analysis of fire activity, wildland fuel conditions and the predicted continued drought as criteria for recommending the ban.
The condition is being closely monitored in Rogers County, said Anderson.
Anderson said there are four tiers of criteria a county must meet in order for county commissioners to declare a burn ban. Rogers County is close, but has not quite met all of the requirements.
In the meantime, Anderson warns residents to check with their local fire stations before burning anything outdoors. If winds are over 15 miles per hour, residents should not burn.
“Keep a water hose close,” said Anderson. “Ash from fireplaces and grills should not be disposed of on the ground. Put ash in metal containers for two days to make sure it’s completely extinguished.”
He has recommends keeping grass and brush — anything that could fuel a fire — cropped short around homes and buildings.
Anderson also warned smokers to be careful with cigarettes. In addition, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol will issue traffic citations for anyone caught disposing of cigarettes on the state’s highways.
“We discourage any type of foreign substances being thrown out on our highways, especially if they are lit,” said OHP Lt. Tom Montgomery.
In Rogers County, violators can be fined $200 for throwing a flaming or glowing substance from a vehicle in addition to court costs of $184 for a total $384.
If the county does induce a burn ban, that $200 fine will double to $400, not counting court costs.
The Governor’s Burn Ban covers 45 counties in western and south-central Oklahoma. Extreme fire conditions are increasing with the drought. With no significant rainfall predicted, expansion of the number of counties with burning restrictions may be necessary in the future.
”The number of wildfires we have had over the last few months is extremely tough on our state firefighters,” Fallin said. “It’s a drain on their resources as well as a physical drain. Anything that can be done to minimize fires will help to keep both our firefighters and the public safe. I’m asking all Oklahomans to be vigilant and to do their part in preventing fires.”
Unlawful activities under the governor’s ban include campfires, bonfires, and setting fire to any forest, grass, woods, wildlands or marshes, as well as igniting fireworks, burning trash or other materials outdoors.
As part of the Governors Burn Ban there are exemptions for a number of items such as welding and road construction. For more specific information and detail visit www.forestry.ok.gov or call Michelle Finch-Walker with the Oklahoma Forestry Services at (580) 236-1021.