As drought conditions continue in our state, local fire departments have their hands full responding to grass fires.
However, it’s volunteer fire departments that say their trucks, that mostly come used, take the brunt of the heat.
“The smallest spark could create a grass fire that turns into a 1-mile or larger grass fire,” said Battalion Chief Benny Fulkerson with the Oklahoma City Fire Department.
The dangerous heat has firefighters in our state responding to a record number of grass fire calls.
“We actually pulled data back to 2010 and not a single July in that time frame approached the 324 mark that we just saw,” said Fulkerson.
“As of July 20, 2022, Oklahoma was ranked fourth in the nation for wildland fires,” said Sheri Nickel, the Administrative Director for the Oklahoma State Firefighters Association.
“We have seen an uptick in grass fires, for example on July 4 we responded to 18 total grassfires that day,” said Chief Cory Beagles with the Deer Creek Fire Protection District.
The Oklahoma City Fire Department said thankfully their new equipment can take the heat but that isn’t the story for smaller volunteer departments.
“There are two different fire departments in the Southwest part of the state that have lost their brush trucks to fire. The minimum cost to replace one of those is around $125,000,” said Nickel.
“We are very fortunate in that we have a good funding base with our department but even with that it is a constant battle to keep everything on the road and operational,” said Beagles.
The extra repairs are adding up as we head into another hot month.
“All of the rubber bushings, the grease and the bearings, it all just gets so hot it begins to deteriorate,” said Beagles.
“We are not out of the woods just because we received a little bit of rain recently,” said Fulkerson.
Fire officials said grass fires ramp up in the afternoon. They are asking anyone who spends time outside to be extra cautious.