Oklahoma Counties Must Meet Certain Criteria To Issue Burn Ban

Tuesday, May 6th 2014, 9:20 pm
By: News 9

Big developments Tuesday out of Logan County where investigators determine a massive wildfire was not started by a controlled burn.

Fire crews originally thought the flames were sparked by a controlled burn, creating doubt in the state's burn ban policy.

90% percent of this fire is now under control. But from the very beginning, fire crews had 100% doubt in the burn ban criteria.

5/6/2014 Related Story: Firefighters Make 'Significant Progress' Battling Logan County Wildfire

"Is that frustrating at all? Very much so, Oklahoma's burn ban law is very reactive in nature," said Guthrie Fire Chief Eric Harlow.

Since the start of the flames Sunday night, to now.

"Sometimes we have to have a situation like this before we can proceed on a burn ban. Different states have different laws, ours can be massaged a little to where firefighters view a little more safe than the way it should be," said Harlow.

What Guthrie Fire Chief Eric Harlow questions is the state policy that requires counties to meet three of four criteria to issue a burn ban. The needed conditions account for drought, forecasted rain and an either/or situation of fire occurrence, fire behavior and origin of the fires. Harlow mentioned Logan County had to wait to officially be in a drought to even consider a ban.

"All we can do it visit with our lawmakers and get their opinion on it," said Harlow.

"I think last year's vote showed our commitment to commissioners to give them the tools they need to address this but if they need more and if we need to look at the criteria again that's something we will look at," said Rep. Jason Murphy.

In November a law was passed that created the three of four option. And lawmaker Jason Murphy who represents Guthrie's district knows citizens decisions are also a factor.

"You can never mandate common sense and the law cannot catch all and sometimes these things do rely on common sense," said Murphy.

As for other states, Texas does not allow any outdoor burning besides small exemptions or authorized by a county and Washington state has two levels of bans: yellow for caution and red for severe.