Thursday, January 22, 2015

Wildfires Keeping Forestry, Fire Departments Busy

Oklahoma Forestry and area fire departments were busy last week with wildfires in the county. Cliff Eppler, Forest Ranger II in Sallisaw, said vegetation is still in a winter dormancy period, which means that it quickly dries with warm temperatures and wind. When humidity levels drop below 35 percent, wind gusts take place at over 10 miles per hour, and temperatures warm conditions into the 50s and 60s, wildfire activity increases. These conditions present optimal opportunities for responsible burning, i.e. brush, trash, leaves, cropland, and managed forestry areas, but also allow for fast-moving wildfires if burns are not carefully planned, monitored, maintained and contained, throughout their duration. 

For those planning controlled burns, Eppler asks these guidelines be followed.

*Before you burn check to make sure that the wind is not gusty. Gusts over 5 to 10 mph can create a bad situation quickly.

*Always plan to stay with the burn site, throughout the duration of flame activity.

*Always have a water hose nearby, in case of an emergency situation.

*When you prepare a burn site, dig a dirt barrier around your intended burn area, even if you're burning in a grassy area. The direct ring creates a fire-resistant barrier so that flames stay where you intend them to. Remember the grass burns very quickly when conditions are this dry.

*To report a wildfire call 1-800-299-FIRE (3473).

Even though rain in Sequoyah County Thursday dampened the ground, Eppler said it won't be long before wildfire season is in full swing. Eppler said, "It's a combination of temperature, wind and humidity," that people should check before a controlled burn.

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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