MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

May 6, 2014

Burn ban for 36 counties as huge wildfire continues


CNHI

— GUTHRIE — Gov. Mary Fallin traveled to the Guthrie area Monday to visit with emergency officials and other first responders as crews continued to battle a massive wildfire in Logan County that has burned almost 2,500 acres and claimed one life. At least 1,000 residents had evacuated, but most were allowed to return to their homes Monday morning.

Fallin met with forestry officials about issuing a statewide burn ban. She later issued a burn ban for 36 counties, nearly half the state.

The ban makes it unlawful to set fire to any forest, grass, woods, wildlands or marshes, to build a bonfire or fire, to burn or ignite fireworks or to burn trash or other materials outdoors in any of the 36 counties.

Oklahoma Forestry Services, a division of the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, recommended the ban based on an analysis of fire activity, wildland fuel conditions and the predicted continued drought, according to the governor’s office.

Fallin also declared a state of emergency for all 77 counties because of wildfires that began Sunday. The action marks a first step toward seeking federal assistance should it be needed.

Other fires were reported Sunday and raging into Monday near Altus, Jennings and Keystone Lake in Pawnee County, Seiling, Stillwater and east of Woodward. Damage assessments are ongoing.

“We have extreme conditions for fire right now,” Fallin said. “We had fires at Woodward and Altus and Keystone Lake and fires popping up in other places. We have a lot of things going on in the state. We pulled together all the resources we can and we put the command center here in Logan County because of so many fires threatening the community.”

Fallin said six structures were destroyed in Logan County and one person was dead after a controlled burn spread out of control Sunday. As of Monday evening, the fatality had not been publicly identified as officials continued to reach out to next of kin.

Fallin said two Oklahoma Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters were taking turns dropping water Monday on the area of the highest smoke volume, southeast of the Guthrie Country Club.

Guthrie Fire Chief Eric Harlow said more than 40 agencies have worked the fire since the original call at 4:26 p.m. Sunday to the Woodcrest Volunteer Fire Department.

Insurance Commissioner John Doak accompanied Fallin to the fire command headquarters.

He said members of his team were in Guthrie to help homeowners with insurance questions.

Doak suggested homeowners take an inventory of their household items and photograph them in case their property is in line of the approaching fire.