EDITORIAL: Burn ban right call

·3 min read

Jul. 19—Pittsburg County commissioners voted Tuesday to immediately put a burn ban in effect — and it's the right call.

Oklahoma law that states burn bans can be called when temperatures for any day over the next three days are forecast at or higher than 100 degrees.

A two-week forecast shows max temperatures in Pittsburg County reaching at least 100 degrees.

The local burn ban is scheduled to last through Aug. 2 and states 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.

Pittsburg County Office of Emergency Management Director Kevin Enloe said he met Monday with members of the Pittsburg County Firefighters Association — with an overwhelming majority of fire chiefs from 27 fire departments in the county agreeing to request the burn ban.

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.

"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 states.

Pittsburg County became one of 22 counties in Oklahoma to issue a burn ban as of Tuesday.

A map from the U.S. Drought Monitor — produced through a partnership between the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — shows all of Oklahoma is at least drier than normal.

But the map shows severe or extreme drought conditions in the panhandle and southwest Oklahoma — while our community in southeast Oklahoma is under moderate drought.

The map states crops are stressed and stock pond levels decline under drier than normal conditions.

Moderate drought conditions include:

—Summer crop and forage yields are reduced

—Wildfire risk increases

—Lake recreation activities are affected; deer reproduction is poor

—Seasonal creek and rainfed pond levels are lowering

But with this week's heat wave with triple-digit high temperatures threatening records for our area, the drought conditions are likely to worsen.

As drought conditions worsen, dryland crops become severely reduced, pasture growth is stunted, cattle are stressed, trees show significant wilting and more.

Hotter temperatures bring a drier environment and higher risks of wildfires getting out of control.

"Wildland fires are a force of nature that can be nearly as impossible to prevent, and as difficult to control, as hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods," the Oklahoma Dept. of Agriculture, Food and Forestry states on its website.

The department added "In the wrong place at the wrong time, wildfires can wreak havoc, threatening lives, homes, communities, and natural and cultural resources."

That's exactly why we agree with the county commissioners' decision to immediately put in effect a burn ban.

And we urge everyone to be cautious.

—McAlester News-Capital Editorial Board