Countywide burn ban expires

·3 min read

Aug. 29—The most recent 14-day burn ban in place in Pittsburg County expired Monday and county commissioners declined to pass a new one — effectively lifting the countywide ban against burning that's been in effect for 42 days.

"There's no burn ban for now," McAlester/Pittsburg County Office of Emergency Management Director Kevin Enloe noted after the commissioners' meeting.

He said if the county receives the amount of rain it's forecast to get over the next three-to-six days, the burn ban could not stay in effect.

Enloe said his information from the National Weather Service shows the county is forecast to get up to .61 inches of rain through the next 7 days.

Pittsburg County is still in an exceptional drought mode under the U.S. Drought Monitor, he said. Still, if the county gets the amount of rain it's forecast to get over the next week, Pittsburg County would not be eligible for an enforceable burn ban based on the state's criteria, even if the county does remain in an exceptional drought mode for awhile longer.

Pittsburg County Commission Chairman/District 2 Commissioner Kevin Smith said he did not want to pass a burn ban that is not enforceable.

District 1 Commissioner Charlie Rogers said he's heard from constituents regarding the matter.

"I've had a bunch of citizens call" who were requesting the burn ban be lifted, he said.

"I feel like we've had enough rain in my area," Rogers said, referring to the north part of the county and other parts of his district. He said commissioners can look at the issue again during their next meeting, which will be next Tuesday, Sept. 6, because of the long Labor Day weekend. Smith also said the commissioners could reconsider the burn ban during another meeting if they need to do so.

Enloe polled fire chiefs belonging to the Pittsburg County Firefighters Association, so he could have results available. Polls results were 17 fire chiefs voted "yes" in favor of enacting a new burn ban. Nine voted "no," which meant they were opposed to a new burn ban going into place. Enloe said he did not hear back from one of the chiefs.

While more fire chiefs were in favor of enacting a new burn ban, commissioners declined to do so, based on the weather forecasts supplied by Enloe.

Commissioners passed the first 14-day burn ban on July 19, then passed two more similar 14-day bans as the county remained in a drought mode with little countywide rainfall, with the exception of a few areas.

The burn ban in place for the past 42 days called for those convicted of violating the measure to face maximum penalties of up to a $500 fine and/or a year in jail.

"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, or use any fireworks that may cause a forest, grass range, crop or other wildland fire," the burn bans stated

Outdoor welding was allowed during the burn bans, provided there were fire watch personnel on the scene while welding and/or cutting activities were underway. Outdoor grilling was allowed, with the recommendation the griller was on a concrete patio or something similar.

The resolutions also stated the burn bans were enforceable by any law enforcement office in the state.

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com.