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The Shawnee News-Star
  • Wildfires erupt: Firefighters battle grass fires in Earlsboro, McLoud

  • With drought conditions creating extreme fire hazards, grass fires erupted in Pottawatomie County Friday, including a wildfire that threatened homes near Earlsboro and another blaze that was extinguished in McLoud.


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  • With drought conditions creating extreme fire hazards, grass fires erupted in Pottawatomie County Friday, including a wildfire that threatened homes near Earlsboro and another blaze that was extinguished in McLoud.
    Firefighters also were busy with several smoke investigations as smoke from many grass fires in central Oklahoma, including one from a major wildfire in nearby Cleveland County, seemed to fill the air for most of the day.
    Earlsboro, Tecumseh and Shawnee fire crews, with help from a Citizen Potawatomi Nation tanker, worked a morning blaze in an area northeast of SH 3 and South Rock Creek Road.
    Shawnee Fire Capt. Jack Miller said the fire burned about 15 to 20 acres, but fire crews had many obstacles in their way as they battled that blaze.
    Earlsboro Fire Chief Shane Rawls, who said Earlsboro crews went back out to the scene later Friday to douse hot spots, estimated about 10 to 15 acres burned.
    Miller, who said firefighters had to work around an old salvage yard and other equipment, said the grass fire did burn several small outbuildings and a hay barn, along with a vacant mobile home.
    Flames threatened three occupied and two unoccupied residences in that area, including those on Bristow Lane, Miller said.
    Rawls said the siding of one occupied home also did melt.
    Some reports indicated neighbors reportedly help one woman evacuated when her home was threatened.
    Cause of that fire wasn’t immediately known, Miller said.
    McLoud firefighters battled another blaze shortly after noon Friday that consumed about 40 acres between Old Highway 270 and Westech Road in northwestern Pottawatomie County.
    Capt. Todd Beesley, public information officer with the McLoud Fire Department, said crews were dispatched to the scene at 12:42 p.m., and had the fire extinguished by 3 p.m.
    No injuries were reported, and no structures were affected, Beesley said. A barn full of round bales of hay, as well as a propane storage structure, was nearby, but firefighters were able to protect those structures.
    “They made sure that those two things were secured,” Beesley said.
    Beesley said the fire appears to have started as a result of a farmer harvesting a small bean crop. The crop was mostly destroyed, Beesley said, and a hay field was also consumed.
    Firefighters were already battling a smaller blaze nearby when the larger fire started.
    Several of McLoud Fire Department’s volunteers were available to handle Friday’s fires, Beesley said.
    “We were real fortunate,” he said.
    Fires were prevalent in other areas Friday afternoon and evening, including a large fire near Luther that forced troopers to shut down the Turner Turnpike from Oklahoma County to the Chandler exit in Lincoln County.
    As conditions remain parched and continue to worsen around the state, Gov. Mary Fallin on Friday enacted a statewide burn ban for all 77 counties, which supercedes county-issued bans.
    Page 2 of 2 - Nearly 50 counties already had county-wide burn bans in place, including Pottawatomie, Lincoln and Seminole counties.
     
    "Extreme heat and ongoing drought have created conditions very conducive to wildfires," Fallin said. "A statewide burn ban is now necessary to reduce the risk of preventable wildfires and to protect lives and property.
     
    "Moving forward, we need the public to be extremely vigilant. Lit cigarettes, flat tires and cars parked in dry grass can quickly become dangerous. Everyone must do their part to help prevent fires and to keep our families and businesses safe from harm."  
    Shawnee/Pottawatomie County Emergency Management Director Don Lynch said the guidelines for the governor’s  burn ban are the same as the guidelines issued under the ban enacted by the Pottawatomie County Board of County Commissioners this week.
     
    State Forester George Geissler said reports of fire activity across the state are increasing and Oklahomans should report any fire they see immediately.
     
    "Any fire that starts has the potential to burn very intensely and be difficult to extinguish," said Geissler. "It is critical that anyone who sees a fire report it to the nearest fire department as soon as possible."
     
    Unlawful activities under the statewide ban include campfires, bonfires, fireworks and setting fire to debris or trash, grass, woods or other materials outdoors.
    The ban allows for gas and charcoal grilling provided that it is over a nonflammable surface and at least 5 feet from flammable vegetation and there are exemptions for a number of items such as welding and road construction. For a complete list of activities allowed and prohibited, view the guidelines for the Governor's Burn Ban on www.forestry.ok.gov/burn-ban-information or call Oklahoma Forestry Services at 580-236-1021.
     

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