Is Logan County next to issue burn ban?

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Guthrie Fire Chief Eric Harlow issued a burn ban today for the city limits of Guthrie. However, this does not include the county at this time.

The Oklahoma County Board of Commissioners issued a burn ban on Monday afternoon due to extreme drought conditions and wildfire danger. Oklahoma County joins 30 other Oklahoma counties to issue the ban with more counties expected to follow suit. Currently there are no Governor burn bans issued.

So how does Logan County enact a burn ban? Guthrie News Page contacted Logan County Commissioners Mark Sharpton and Mike Pearson about a county-wide burn ban. Sharpton shared this column he wrote back in April and shows it’s not a simple matter.

Enacting burn ban no light matter

Due to drought conditions in Oklahoma, it is not uncommon to hear that various counties throughout the state are banning outdoor burning.

The decision by a Board of County Commissioners to enact a burn ban is more complex than some realize. It is not done lightly, since there are statutory requirements that must be met.

In this update, I want to explain the process for implementing a burn ban, as practiced by Logan County under the guidance of Oklahoma Forestry Services.

In 2008, Governor Brad Henry signed into law Senate Bill 1816 which authorizes Boards of County Commissioners to enact a ban on outdoor burning. Legal authority is found in Title 2 of Oklahoma Statutes.

To reduce the threat of wildfire, Article 16 Section 16-26 of the Oklahoma Forestry Code authorizes the Governor to declare a ban on outdoor burning, based upon drought conditions and the recommendation of the Forestry Division.

County commissioners are also authorized to exercise similar authority at county level, and may enact a burn ban for up to 30 days, provided they follow certain procedures and meet certain conditions.

Prior to the passage of a burn ban, the Board must declare the existence of extreme fire danger. This means four conditions must exist:

1. Moderate, severe or extreme drought exists as determined by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

2. No more than 1/2″ of precipitation is forecast for the next three days

3. Fire occurrence is greater than normal for the season and/or initial attack on a significant number of wildland fires has been unsuccessful due to extreme fire behavior

4. More than 20% of wildfires in the county have been caused by escaped debris burning or controlled burning activities

Commissioners must also document that a majority of the county’s municipal and certified rural departments agree that extreme fire danger exists.

David Ball, Logan County Emergency Management Director, typically communicates with each fire department to gather this information to present to the Board of Commissioners.

Once a burn ban is enacted, it becomes effective immediately. It can also be cancelled before the 30 days expire,but this must be done by resolution also.

On the same day that a ban is implemented, notification must be made to the Departments of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, Public Safety, Tourism and Recreation, Wildlife Conservation, local news media and local law enforcement officials.

In Logan County, notifying the various entities is generally carried out by the emergency management director.

Boards of Commissioners may include certain exceptions within a burn ban, and these may differ from county to county.

Accessing the Oklahoma Forestry website allows you to view a map illustrating counties beneath a burn ban and the resolution pertaining to each.

When in effect, Logan County burn ban resolutions are also posted online at www.logancountyok.com under the “NEWS” link.

Using common sense when it comes to outdoor burning is the best prevention of wildfire.

Mowing the grass, keeping leaves and debris away from structures, and using caution in regard to the weather when burning outdoors may prevent loss of life and property. As one Logan County fire department official recently said in regard to this issue, “It helps us if they (the citizens) help themselves.”
Mark Sharpton
Commissioner
Logan County District 1
405.282.3581

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