By Jeff Shultz
It was destined to happen.
With 100+ temperatures, very little rain in the forecast and several small, but significant, grassfires in Garvin County this past weekend, the Garvin County Board of Commissioners implemented a 30-day Burn Ban during their regular weekly meeting Monday.
“We had a tough weekend,” said Garvin County Emergency Management Director Bud Ramming. “We had a barn burn down over off Kimberline Road, and several small grass fires to deal with. We’re just lucky none of the fires got severely out of control.”
Ramming said one grass fire was started when the property owner was mowing his yard and hit a piece of metal which produced a spark that set the grass on fire.
“That’s how dry it is out there. Just the smallest of sparks can start a grass fire,” he said.
Another fire was started when a welder was welding too close to dry vegetation, Ramming added.
The 30-day Burn Ban means residents in Garvin County can not have any open burning of any kind.
“They can’t burn their trash or have any type of controlled burn. Outdoor charcoal grilling is permitted, but as long as the grill is a good distance from any dry vegetation,” Ramming continued.
Garvin County Sheriff Larry Rhodes said Monday his office will be watching for violators of the Burn Ban.
“The burning of trash in burn barrels is the biggest complaint we see,” Rhodes said in a prepared news release.
Rhodes added that many times citizens conducting the burning activity think they are in compliance with the requirements of the burn ban but actually they do not meet the exceptions for outdoor burning.
Additionally, many citizens are unaware a burn ban was implemented.
“Field deputies are being encouraged to use good judgment and exercise discretion in making physical arrests for illegal burning during these times,” he added.
However, those who knowingly violate the Burn Ban could face prosecution, Rhodes said.
“Deputies responding to complaints of illegal burning will make a detailed incident report and forward the findings of their investigation to the Garvin County District Attorney‚Äôs Office for review and possible prosecution,” he said.
The criminal act for violation of the burn ban is a misdemeanor which carries a penalty including a fine of up to $500.00 and/or a maximum of 1 year imprisonment.
Later on Monday, Governor Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency for all 77 counties in Oklahoma, due to extreme or exceptional drought conditions.
“Extreme heat and dry conditions continue to affect the entire state,‚Äù Fallin said. ‚ÄúMy administration will be ready to help provide whatever aid and assistance it can as Oklahoma communities work to cope with this drought.”
The Executive Order allows state agencies to make emergency purchases related to disaster relief and preparedness. It is also a first step toward seeking federal assistance should it be necessary.