Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management
March 23, 2011 6:45 p.m.
CONTACT: Michelann Ooten, Public Information Officer
WILDFIRES IMPACTING STATE
Due to the wildfires impacting Oklahoma, the State Emergency Operations Center is at Level Three activation, which involves extended operating hours for key personnel. The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management (OEM) is in contact with emergency managers in the affected areas. Additionally, OEM is working with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Oklahoma National Guard and State Forestry Division.
While temperatures were cooler today and winds much weaker than Tuesday, low relative humidity values and dry vegetation again combined to create favorable fire spread conditions.
Temperatures in the 60s will prevail across Oklahoma on Thursday as light northeast winds shift to a southerly direction late in the day. A storm system will quickly approach and move north of Oklahoma late Thursday into Friday with minimal rain chances. Temperatures will warm into the 70s on Friday, but winds are expected to remain in the 10 to 15 mph range on Friday. A slight chance of thunderstorms is in the forecast for Friday evening.
Evacuations are underway in Osage County, near the town of Prue where 40 homes are threatened by a fire. In Bartlesville evacuations are also underway as a fire threatens the Oak Park area. Fires were also reported in Cleveland, Ellis, Pawnee, Pottawatomie and Tulsa counties.
A shelter is open in Prue at the Assembly of God Church, 239 East Paudom, for those displaced by the fire.
OEM continues to work in conjunction with State Forestry officials to deploy Oklahoma National Guard Blackhawk and Chinook helicopters equipped with buckets to provide aerial fire support. Water drops have been provided on fires in Slaughterville, in Cleveland County; Bell, in Adair County; and Prue, in Osage County.
State Forestry officials report numerous county burn bans remain in effect. For more information on burn bans go to www.forestry.ok.gov/burn-ban-information.
In counties without a burn ban in place, the public should check the current and forecast fire weather conditions prior to conducting any outdoor burning. Exercise due caution when conducting burns to prevent igniting a wildfire. Report any suspicious wild land fire activity on the Arson Tip Line: 1-866-662-7766 (1-866-NO ARSON).
Wildfires are often caused by human activity. High winds and dry conditions can set the stage for potentially severe fires. The greatest single cause is when burning debris is not properly contained and sparks or burning trash blow into the air. Oklahomans can help prevent fires if they:
- Be careful when pulling off a road or driving into a field. Hot catalytic converters can ignite vegetation.
- Avoid burning trash. Even a barrel covered with a screen can allow a spark to escape, igniting nearby vegetation.
- Do not use fireworks during holidays.
- If you smoke in your car, extinguish cigarettes in vehicle ashtrays. Never toss a cigarette out of a car window, and don’t put cigarettes out on the ground.
- Keep a fire extinguisher and water handy when working outdoors with equipment that gets hot, or involves sparks, such as welding equipment. Water down outdoor work areas in advance if possible.
If advised to evacuate, do so immediately. Choose a route away from the fire hazard and be alert to changes in the speed and direction of fire and smoke.
When weather conditions make wildfires more likely in your area, prepare by taking the following precautions:
- Keep firefighting tools handy, such as: ladder long enough to reach the roof, shovel, rake and buckets.
- Place connected garden hoses on all sides of the house for emergency use.
- Know all emergency exits from your house.
- Learn all routes leading out of your neighborhood.
- As fires actually approach, take the following actions:
- Park your car facing the direction of escape.
- Shut off gas at the meter. Only a qualified professional can safely turn the gas back on.
- Turn off propane tanks.
- Place combustible patio furniture inside.
For more information about wildfire safety, visit the following websites:
Oklahoma Forestry Services
Next Situation Update: As conditions warrant