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Friday, January 28, 2011
Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak notes that officials in 10 central and south‐central counties of the state enacted bans on outdoor burning this month in response to persistent dry conditions.
The most recent U.S. Drought Monitor reports severe drought in central Oklahoma, primarily the Oklahoma City metro area. Portions of southeastern Oklahoma, including the region around Hugo, also are considered to be in severe drought. Dry conditions plus the forecast of high winds gusting to 20 mph have prompted the National Weather Service to warn Oklahomans of the high potential for wildfires.
At least one home in Blanchard was damaged Thursday by a grass fire that reached the residence.
“Current conditions make it unwise and extremely dangerous to conduct any kind of outdoor burning,” Doak said. “Even using a grill is hazardous if you don’t take great care and cook only in a location where the flame or embers have no chance of contacting the grass or any other dry foliage.”
As of Friday morning, counties under burn bans include Cotton, Garvin, Jefferson, Lincoln, McClain, Okfuskee, Oklahoma, Pottawatomie, Seminole and Stephens. The bans range in duration from one week to one month.
For specific information on the duration and local rules of the ban in any county, or to see if your county has been added to the ban list, the Oklahoma Forestry Services division of the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture maintains an online list of active burn bans across the state. The state Forestry Service Web site also offers an array of information about wildland fires and wildfire prevention.
In most counties with burning bans, outdoor cooking in approved appliances such a gas or charcoal grill is still permitted with due caution exercised and/or under certain conditions – particularly with the grill positioned over a nonflammable surface (like a concrete driveway or patio) and at least five feet away from any flammable vegetation.
In the event of a wildfire, the Oklahoma Insurance Department urges you to act quickly and wisely:
• Throughout most of the state, call 911 or your local fire department immediately. In certain areas of the eastern part of the state, wildfire hotlines exist and should be notified first in the event of an outdoor blaze. In northeast Oklahoma (Adair, Cherokee, Delaware and Sequoyah counties, portions of Ottawa, Mayes and Muskogee counties and a small part of Wagoner County), report wildfires to (800) 299‐3473; in east‐central Oklahoma (Haskell, Latimer, Le Flore and eastern Pittsburg counties), phone (800) 375‐2056; and in southeastern Oklahoma (Pushmataha County, most of McCurtain County, eastern Atoka County and northeast Choctaw County), call (800) 299‐2468.
• After calling firefighters, secure your property, pets and livestock as best you can without risking the lives of you and your family.
• When the fire has moved on or been extinguished, call your insurance agent or company claim line as soon as possible.
• Read your homeowner’s insurance policy carefully to fully understand your coverage and your rights. If you don’t have the policy in hand, ask the agent for a copy.
• Document your losses for your insurer with the aid of a current home inventory of valuable belongings. Compile this inventory before trouble arises by starting at the back of your home and working forward through every room, writing down all items of major value. It will be easier to calculate your loss and secure a fair and accurate claim check for replacing your property if you know a few specifics about expensive items, including televisions, stereos, gaming systems, appliances and the like. Write down the make and model; try to remember what year you bought the item, and what you paid for it. Adding pictures or video to the written list of items can be a big help to your agent. When completed, keep this inventory at a secure location offsite, like in a safe deposit box at a bank, or at the home of a relative who doesn’t live nearby enough to possibly lose their home to the same disaster. For more advice on compiling your home inventory, including forms you can print, fill out and save, see www.ok.gov/oid/home_inventory.html.
• In the event of concerns or a dispute about your insurance policy or settlement, contact the Oklahoma Insurance Department toll‐free at (800) 522‐0071, or online at http://oid.ok.gov
About the Oklahoma Insurance Department
The Oklahoma Insurance Department, an agency of the State of Oklahoma, is responsible for the education and protection of the insurance‐buying public and for oversight of the insurance industry in the state.