Commissioners hold emergency meeting; pass burn ban

·3 min read

Jul. 19—Pittsburg County commissioners met in emergency session on Tuesday to pass a county-wide burn ban, effective immediately.

The burn ban proclaims that extreme fire danger exists in Pittsburg County and prohibits outdoor burning.

Commissioners called the emergency meeting after hearing from Pittsburg County Office of Emergency Management Director Kevin Enloe. The burn ban, which includes penalties calling for fines and/or jail time for violators, will remain in place for the next 14 days.

"We set it for 14 days due to the heat regulations, along with we've definitely got drought problems," said County Commission Chairman/District 2 Commissioner Kevin Smith in reference to the July 19 resolution.

Enloe said he met with members of the Pittsburg County Firefighters Association on Monday night. He told the commissioners the overwhelming majority of fire chiefs from 27 fire departments in the county were in agreement of asking the commissioners to pass the burn ban.

Enloe also pointed to a portion of state law that says burn bans can be called when several conditions are in place, including when "temperatures for any day over the next three days are forecast at or over 100 degrees Fahrenheit." Enloe said he saw a long-range forecast predicting temperatures higher than 100 degrees for the next 14 days.

The burn ban resolution states "It is unlawful for any person to set fire to any forest, grass, range, crop or other wildlands, or build a campfire or bonfire, or to burn trash or other material." The burn ban also makes it unlawful to use any fireworks that may cause a forest, grass, range, crop or other wildland fire.

An exception is made to allow outdoor welding, provided fire watch personnel with extinguishing equipment are on the scene while welding or cutting activities are being performed.

"I'm happy that it passed," Enloe said after the commissioners approved the burn ban resolution. Enloe noted the county was under a Red Flag Warning for Tuesday and that the Office of Emergency Management is under a Level 2 designation, which calls for enhanced operations reporting to the state, including the reporting of any and all fires, utility outages and water issues.

He also noted the Tuesday forecast called for winds of up to 24 mph, adding to the concerns about how quickly a fire could spread.

The resolution allows for any law enforcement officer of the state of Oklahoma to enforce it. Anyone convicted of violating the burn ban is guilty of a misdemeanor offense, and subject to a fine of up to $500, up to a year imprisonment, or both, the resolution states.

District 1 Commissioner Charlie Rogers joined Smith to vote in favor of the burn ban. District 3 Commissioner Ross Selman was not present at the emergency meeting.

While the burn ban is set to remain in effect for 14 days from July 19, the resolution notes that if extreme fire danger conditions persist, subsequent burn bans may be passed.

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com.