Tahlequah Daily Press

September 5, 2013

Grass fire risk increases

Dry conditions spur warnings from firefighters

By JOSH NEWTON
Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — jnewton@tahlequahdailypress.com

Tahlequah firefighters say it’s time to start using an abundance of caution outdoors, where fires can kick up in a moment’s notice.

While Cherokee County saw lower temperatures and more rainfall than is typical over the summer season, a recent lack of rain is leaving areas dry and prone to fires.

“We are at the point where we need to start worrying about outside fires,” said Tahlequah Fire Chief Ray Hammons. “It’s been a while since we’ve had rain, but all the previous rain has left us with large areas of undergrowth that can fuel fires very quickly.”

Hammons said outdoor fires should only be used under “very, very controlled circumstances.”

When grilling, keep a water source nearby to quickly snuff out any rampant flames and the leftover embers of the fire. And those who smoke cigarettes or cigars should refrain from tossing their remnants into the grass – a practice firefighters say should actually be used at all times.

“It’s important to remember that green grass can catch on fire,” Hammons said. “Always be aware of your surroundings.”

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, Cherokee, Adair and Mayes counties – along with eastern portions of Wagoner County – are “abnormally dry.”

Most of eastern and central Oklahoma are drought-free, while counties in western Oklahoma are facing moderate, severe, extreme and exceptional drought conditions.