It has become one of the most feared words of the summer in our state: wildfire.
Thousands of acres of dry Oklahoma landscape have burned the past three months, including the parched vegetation that was destroyed or damaged last weekend. Forecasters say precipitation possibilities don’t look much more favorable — if at all — for the next two or three months.
There may be rain, but don’t expect there to be enough of it to end the severe drought conditions that have turned much of the state into a disaster area, weather officials say.
That’s not good news, and it requires all of us to exercise more caution when handling anything that could spark or accelerate a fire outside.
At least one of three wildfires last weekend likely originated with cigarettes, investigators say. A fire north and east of Edmond that began Thursday and rekindled a couple of times was almost certainly due to discarded smoking materials. That blaze destroyed seven homes and heavily damaged several others, as well as outbuildings and other items.
Fortunately, there were no deaths or serious injuries.
Firefighters also battled blazes near Asher, Mannford and Cleveland, OK, that required assistance from the Oklahoma National Guard, which provided water drops.
The fire near Asher burned several hundred acress, while a large blaze near Mannford spread through more than 2,000 acres.
Drought conditions and excessive heat have combined to put Oklahoma in this danger zone, weather officials said. The National Weather Service on Monday issued a fire weather watch for 47 counties in western, central and easter Oklahoma. This includes four of the state’s most populous counties: Cleveland and Oklahoma (Oklahoma City metro area), Tulsa (Tulsa metro), Comanche (Lawton and surrounding area) and Garfield (Enid area). It also included Jackson (Altus area), Kay (Ponca City area) and Pittsburg (McAlester area).
The weather service says the fire weather watch was issued because southwest winds of 20 mph with gusts of up to 30 mph were possible. These conditions can help a fire spread rapidly. Meanwhile, all of the state remains under a burn ban, barring outdoor burning that is not in a contained fixture.
Many cities and towns also are under water use guidelines, such as those around central Oklahoma that use Oklahoma City water. These locations are on an even-odd system — watering allowed on even days for even-number house addresses; odd days for odd-number addresses.
But fire prevention remains a need for all. A casually discarded cigarette can cause a massive, destructive fire. A spark from an outdoor fire torch or pit can start a large blaze.
We all can help avoid these situations by doing our parts.
See more on the fire problem and Oklahoma’s severe weather situation by going to http://knowit.newsok.com/severe-weather-oklahoma