USA: Sequoyah County may have received a good dose of rain late Thursday and early Friday, but wildfires are still a hazard, officials said.
A two-acre wildfire along Interstate 40 late Friday was quickly doused by Sallisaw firefighters as it moved toward the Shiloh Training Center on the north side of the interstate. Sallisaw Fire Chief Anthony Armstrong said firefighters were stationed along the fence line between the horse training facility and quickly doused the fire as it spread.
Armstrong said Thursdays fire was most likely started by a cigarette thrown from a vehicle or possibly by sparks cast off by a passing car or truck.
Sequoyah County fire departments and the Oklahoma Forestry Division have been busy fighting fires throughout the summer.
The Oklahoma Forestry Division reported 996 acres were burned in Sequoyah County during August, and 30 structures were saved, worth an estimated $1.25 million. One structure, a mobile home, was lost at a cost of $15,000.
Sequoyah County commissioners issued a burn ban for the county on Monday. By state law they are required to review the need for a burn ban every seven days, Chris Keathley, Sequoyah County Emergency Management director, said.
Keathley warned residents to refrain from burning.
When its 100 degrees outside, people think its too hot to burn, Keathley said. But when it cools off a little, people go out and start cleaning up their yards and burning trash. They dont realize how dry it is.
Armstrong also emphasized that residents should still be cautious about burning, even though the temperatures cooled off after the Thursday-night rain. He said the weather forecast is for cooler but windy conditions. The wind will spread a wildfire quickly, he cautioned. He said the countys next best chance for rain was Tuesday.
The Oklahoma Forestry Division lists the following measures to avoid or report wildfires on their Web site.
Call for help. Use a cell phone if the electric power has been interrupted.
Close all entrances to the home and garage including windows, doors, garage doors, and vents.
Close shutters, heavy drapes, Venetian blinds or other window coverings. Doing so helps to prevent sparks from blowing inside the house and igniting.
Have tools and water accessible. Fill buckets and other bulk containers with water. Have a shovel, rake and long water hose accessible to fire fighting crews.
Dress for protection. Wear cotton/woolen clothing including long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, gloves and a handkerchief to protect the face.
Wet down the roof. If the roof is combustible, wet it down with a hose. Place a ladder to be used for this task on the side of the roof opposite the fire.
Turn off the residential fuel. If you use natural gas or butane, turn it off at the tank or meter.
Prepare the automobiles. Back as many vehicles as possible into the garage. Then close the door. In the event of evacuation remember to close the garage door behind you as you leave. If you do not have a garage or if yours is full, park your vehicles heading in the direction of the evacuation route.
Dont wait until the last minute to make the decision to leave. Everyone wants keep their property from burning up, but never jeopardize the personal safety of you and your family.
Evacuate the family. If evacuation becomes necessary, take your family and pets to a safe place.
The Oklahoma Forestry Division recommends the following to protect homes and buildings.
Remove dead or overhanging branches. During the windy conditions that exist during a wildland fire, flames, sparks and firebrands could travel from the tree to structure roofs.
Remove leaf accumulation from the yard. Leaf accumulation provides fuel for a wildland fire.
Remove leaf clutter from the roof and gutters. During a wildland fire, leaves on the roof or in gutters could be ignited by flying embers.
Remove tall, dry grasses. Tall, dry grasses provide a path for fire that can lead directly to a house.
Remove ladder fuels. Prune tree limbs so the lowest is between six and 10 feet from the ground. Fire burning through tall, dry grass could ignite these limbs and climb to the top of the tree with relative ease.
Check generators and hoses to be sure it is in good repair. Refuel
garden equipment carefully. Yard equipment needs annual maintenance and proper fueling. Hoses develop leaks and deteriorate with age and exposure. During wildland fire season, fuel your lawn mower properly, away from dry, flammable grasses.
Prune bushes and shrubs regularly. Remove excess growth as well as dead leaves and branches to decrease their flammability, and the threat they could pose during a wildland fire. Dispose of cuttings and debris promptly, according to local regulations.