Citing a series of wildfires this past weekend and worsening weather conditions, Gov. Brad Henry reinstated a limited burn ban in Oklahoma. The new ban will cover all of the state except southeastern Oklahoma, which has received the largest amount of rainfall in recent weeks.
The governor’s office announced the decision March 27 after convening a meeting of state agriculture, forestry and emergency management officials. One week ago, officials with the Department of Agriculture recommended lifting the statewide ban, citing precipitation totals and other data from around the state.
“With the unseasonably warm weather and high winds that are forecast, we want to err on the side of caution,” said Gov. Henry. “Although the agriculture department experts believed Oklahoma had received enough precipitation to remove the ban last week, we think it would be in everyone’s best interest to reinstate a limited ban until we can be sure that the worst danger has passed.
“This will cause a hardship for many Oklahomans, particularly farmers and ranchers, but in these weather conditions, a ban is necessary to protect lives and property.”
When the governor approved the agriculture department’s burn ban recommendation last week, he urged Oklahomans to be especially cautious with any outdoor fires and warned that he would reinstate the ban if necessary. Not everyone followed that advice, according to state forestry officials.
“No one should be burning trash or conducting a controlled burn when winds are gusting like they were this weekend, but many people ignored the dangerous conditions and things got out of hand,” said John Burwell, director of the agriculture department’s forestry services division. “Many fires would not have occurred had better judgment been exercised.”
The new burn ban will apply to all of Oklahoma except the following counties in southeastern Oklahoma: Pittsburg, Latimer, Leflore, McCurtain, Choctaw, Pushmataha, Bryan, Atoka, Coal and Marshall. Charcoal grilling will be exempt from the ban.
Violations of the ban are misdemeanors punishable by as much as a $500 fine and one-year imprisonment.
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