ADA – In spite of recent rains, wildfire danger remains very high to extreme across the south-central Oklahoma’s counties. The small amounts of rain received in most areas were insufficient to entirely relieve the fire conditions the area has experienced since July.

“Residents need to continue to be careful with their outdoor activities during this dry time,” said Sheldon Sankey, wildfire prevention technician for the Chickasaw Agency, Eastern Oklahoma Region, Bureau of Indian Affairs. “As long as the dry conditions continue, we need to be vigilant about outdoor activities that might start a wildland fire. Also, as long as the Governor of Oklahoma’s ban on outdoor burning is in effect, it needs to be obeyed. The penalties for violating the burning ban can include a fine of up $500 and /or up to a year in jail. In addition to the criminal penalties, there is also a possibility being assessed repayment of suppression costs and possibly civil judgments for any losses.”

The Region has joined the State in effecting the State burn ban on restricted and trust lands in Oklahoma.

“While some areas received significant rains, most of the counties in the central and eastern parts of the Chickasaw Agency did not,” Sankey said. “These conditions are extraordinary and closely resemble the conditions in 1980, 1998 and 2000. All three years are remembered for their extreme wildfire activity. The 2000 summer season continued well into the fall of that year, resulting in numerous large wildfires in September and October. That 2000 season resulted in many residential losses in Oklahoma.”

“Residents living in rural areas need to take precautions immediately to protect their homes from uncontrolled wildfires in their areas,” Sankey added. Some of these precautions include:

Maintain a home defense zone by moving any flammable materials, such as firewood, scrap lumber, propane bottles and gas cans at least 30 feet away from the home. Pruning up vegetation around the home off the ground at least 4 - 6 feet if possible. Any vegetation touching the home should also be pruned back.

Cleaning leaf litter and pine needles from rain gutters and roof valleys.

Keeping lawns well watered and mowed short. Remove any leaf litter accumulations from the lawn. If the lawn is already brown, set the mower at a high clearance setting and be careful to avoid rocks, pavement edges and other items that can produce sparks from a blade strike.

Cleaning up any “inside” corners where dried up leaves collect, including the space beneath wooden decks and porches.

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