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July 9, 2012

Commission orders burn ban in county

STILLWATER, Okla. — Payne County commissioners voted Monday morning to issue a 30-day burn ban, effective immediately.

The commissioners approved the measure after hearing a report from Payne County emergency management director Charley Lawson, who said recent hot, dry conditions have turned the county into a tinderbox.

“From what I have been able to gather from the long-range forecast, I really don’t see that the conditions are going to do anything but get worse over the next 30 days,” said Lawson.

The resolution states it is unlawful to set fire to any forest, grass, range, crop or other wildlands. It is also unlawful to build a campfire or bonfire or burn trash that may cause fire.

There are exceptions to the fire prohibition, including indoor fireplaces and commercial or professional covered cookers used for business purposes only. Welding, torch-down roofing and gas grills are permitted with adequate precautions such as pressurized water or fire extinguishers. Agricultural burning of range and crop lands is permitted with the submission of a written, prescribed plan to the fire department before the burn. Brush piles are not considered to be agricultural burns, and therefore not exempt.

Violation of the burn ban could result in a misdemeanor charge punishable by a fine of up to $500 to up to one year imprisonment.

Payne County joins 14 other counties in the state under a burn ban. The other restricted counties as of Monday are Adair, Blaine, Beaver, Comanche, Creek, Custer, Latimer, LeFlore, McIntosh, Muskogee, Ottawa, Pittsburg, Sequoyah and Tulsa.

Lawson said a burn ban is a sensible response to hot, dry conditions.

“I would just as soon err on the side of safety,” he said. “Common sense tells us it’s dry and getting drier. ... A burn ban would get no argument from the fire chiefs.”

According to the National Weather Service, it will be at least a week before Payne County gets some much needed rain. There is a 60 percent chance of precipitation on July 17.

The forecast for the rest of this week calls for more hot, dry conditions.

Payne County commissioners issued several burn bans last year during a record-setting drought.

Prior to passing the outdoor burn ban resolution, commissioners declared the existence of extreme fire danger in the county.

Commissioners have the option to cancel the ban before the 30-day term if conditions improve, or extend the ban if conditions persist.

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