Oklahoma Foresters Warn of Rising Wildfire Danger

July 30, 2012

Oklahoma Forestry Services is warning of an increasing potential for extreme wildfires across the state.

“Conditions are deteriorating,” Oklahoma State Forester George Geissler said in a news release Saturday. “Fire behavior is nearing the point where firefighters’ initial attack will be unsuccessful and long duration wildfires can happen.”

The Forestry Services – a division of the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry – said the state will be particularly susceptible to fires on Sunday because of a forecast that lacks significant rainfall combined with dry pastures and hayfields.

A wildfire can be sparked by common activities, such as moving a lawn or harvesting crop, the agency said.

Early spring rains resulted in a rapid greening of lawns, pastures and hay meadows, and lowered the fire potential. But with the summer’s persistent drought, these areas are now highly flammable.

“Caution should be taken with any outdoor activities,” said Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture Jim Reese. “Under these conditions, sparks can ignite easily and fires will spread quickly. I ask all agriculture producers to be cautious with equipment such as hay balers that can spark and accidentally ignite a wildfire,” Reese said.

The agency is discouraging outdoor burning, and burn bans are in effect in 39 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties.

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