Major County on Monday became the latest northwest Oklahoma county to institute a burn ban.
The decision came during the Major County commissioners’ regular Monday morning meeting, and the ban will remain in effect for 30 days unless commissioners vote to end it earlier. In all, 49 counties in the state have burn bans in effect.
Other counties in northwest Oklahoma with burn bans are Harper, Woodward, Dewey, Blaine, Kingfisher and Grant.
A burn ban makes it illegal for “any person to set fire to any forest, grass, range, crop, or other wildlands, or to build a campfire or bonfire, to burn trash or other material that may cause a forest, grass, range, crop or other wildlands fire,” according to state statutes. Violating a burn ban can result in a misdemeanor conviction punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000, up to one year in jail or both.
Also on Monday, Gov. Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency for all 77 Oklahoma counties because of the continuing drought, although she stopped short of declaring a statewide burn ban.
“Extreme heat and dry conditions continue to affect the entire state,” Fallin said in a release announcing the declaration. “My administration will be ready to help provide whatever aid and assistance it can as Oklahoma communities work to cope with this drought.”
Fallin’s executive order allows state agencies to make emergency purchases related to disaster relief and preparedness. It also is a first step toward seeking federal assistance.
The state of emergency will last for 30 days, but can be amended based on conditions on the ground.
Mike Postier, chairman of the Garfield County board of commissioners, said Monday commissioners have discussed a burn ban, but have yet to initiate one. He said state law specifies that a majority of a county’s municipal and rural fire departments must agree a burn ban is necessary.
“They haven’t come to us,” he said, referring to officials with Enid Fire Department and rural departments.
According to the law, which was passed in 2008 and signed by then-Gov. Brad Henry: “Commissioners also must document that a majority of the county’s municipal and certified rural fire departments agree that a period of extreme fire danger exists prior to passage of the resolution.”
Other requirements required by law are: the existence of extreme fire danger, which requires that moderate, severe or extreme drought conditions exist as determined by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; no more than one-half inch of rain is forecast by National Weather Service for the next three days; fire occurrence is significantly greater than normal for the season; and more than 20 percent of wildfires in the county have been caused by escaped debris burning or controlled burning activities.
According to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor, most of Garfield County is listed in extreme drought, except for the northwest corner, which is listed in severe drought.
NWS does not include a chance of rain in the forecast through Monday.
Staff Writer Robert Barron contributed to this story.