Governor Mary Fallin has declared a State of Emergency for all 77 Oklahoma counties due to extreme or exceptional drought conditions.
“Extreme heat and dry conditions continue to affect the entire state,” Fallin said. “My 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.
Under the executive order, the state of emergency lasts for 30 days. It can be amended at a later time based on conditions on the ground.
Due to high fire danger across the state, the State Emergency Operations Center is at Level Two activation. The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management (OEM) is in contact with emergency managers in the affected areas. Additionally, OEM is working with the Oklahoma National Guard, Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Oklahoma Forestry Division, Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security, American Red Cross and the Salvation Army.
“Conditions are deteriorating,” said Oklahoma State Forester George Geissler. “Fire behavior is nearing the point where firefighters’ initial attack will be unsuccessful and long duration wildfires can happen.”
Although the occurrence of wildfires to date has been lower, exceptionally dry fuels, heat advisories, increasing winds and no expectation for substantial rainfall results in increased fire danger situations similar to that of last year.
A wildfire can be sparked by common activities like lawn mowing or harvesting a crop. Early spring rains resulted in a rapid greening of lawns, pastures and hay meadows. At the time, this lowered the fire potential and was a welcome sight for Oklahoma homeowners and hay producers. However, with persistent drought these same areas now contain dry fuels that are highly flammable.
“Caution should be taken with any outdoor activities,” said Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture Jim Reese. “Under these conditions, sparks can ignite easily and fires will spread quickly. I ask all agriculture producers to be cautious with equipment such as hay balers that can spark and accidentally ignite a wildfire.”
OFS is coordinating state and federal wildland fire resources and its own task forces and firefighting personnel for response when mobilization is necessary to assist fire department across the state with current wildland fire activity.
Burn bans are in place for several counties, including Tillman, and many of those have specific restrictions. Visit the OFS website www.forestry.ok.gov for a complete list of county burn bans and links to each county’s resolution.